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Lake Worth Bridge, Serving Floridians since 1919

Bridges have been on my mind lately. I just finished reading Death in the Everglades: The Murder of Guy Bradley, America’s First Martyr to Environmentalism. It goes into great detail about the Barefoot Mailman route down the east coast between Palm Beach County and Miami in the days before roads, trains and bridges.

About the same time, I stumbled onto a great website for bridgehunters, run by James Baughn, webmaster of my old hometown paper and producer of The Pavement Ends blog. I decided to sign up as an editor and start documenting some of the bridges I ride over in S. FL.

Glaze, like the donut

While looking for a place to shoot an overall of the bridge, I stumbled onto a small fishing pier at Bryant Park where I met Charles Glaze (Glaze, like the donut) and his friends, Shawn and Terry “we don’t have a last name.”

Charlie and his buddies used to dive off the highest point of the bridge into the channel below. Charlie says “it’s not so bad. People think we’re trying to commit suicide, but we’re not. I dive, not jump. That keeps my weight behind me. It ain’t as bad as people think it is. I don’t do that anymore, though,’cause the judge done put the fear of God into me.”

Feel everybody’s shorts

“My buddy, he jumped off one night and somebody called out the police (pronounced po-leese), so he swum underwater until he got underneath the dock to hide. “Feel everybody’s shorts,” the cops said, “cause if they’re wet, it’s him.”

How long ago did this happen?

“Oh, about two-and-a-half weeks ago.”

Original bridge built in 1919

A wooden span over the Intracoastal Waterway was built in 1919, but the 1928 hurricane wiped it out.

It was replaced by a concrete drawbridge in 1937. It carried traffic until the new bridge was built in 1973. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) inspected the new bridge in 2007 and gave it good passing grades. That should make the 10,900 folks a day who go over the 1,566-foot bridge feel better.

West end of 1937 bridge condemned

The middle of the 1937 bridge was demolished, but the east and west ends were left for fishing piers. The west end was condemned by the Florida Department of Transportation this year as being unsafe. To the dismay of local fishermen, a six-foot-high chainlink fence was erected to keep them off the pier.

Charlie doesn’t see what the big deal is: “They don’t have any problem putting a big truck out there to launch fireworks. They couldn’t put enough people on that bridge to cause it to collapse.”

Big hole in the fence

Judging by the big hole in the fence and the number of fishermen seen on the pier this week, it looks like the No Trespassing signs don’t scare off everyone. That’s not to say there’s not some level of enforcement. The Palm Beach Post’s police blotter column Sept. 18, 2008, noted that two men were arrested for trespassing on the bridge.

The county plans to demolish the old bridge as it makes improvements to the Snook Islands Natural Area. The remains of the old bridge will become fish habitat. Eventually, the city and county will join forces to build a 500-foot boardwalk, a 567-foot fishing pier and a gazebo near the habitat.

Popular with peds and cyclists

The bridge provides a shortcut to the Lake Worth Beach on the ocean. Scores, if not hundreds of walkers, joggers and cyclists cross the Intracoastal here every day on their way to and from the mainland.

It’s not hilly down here

Cyclists in S. FL don’t see many hills. In fact, if you want to get any hill training in, you’re pretty much limited to bridges like this one and the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach. Both bridges have wide shoulders.

10 comments to Lake Worth Bridge, Serving Floridians since 1919

  • Charles Keefer

    Wow. I’ve been over that bridge tons of times and I didn’t realize there was still part of the old bridge beside it. I’m sure I’ve seen it but it didn’t register.

    So, does this documentation just live on this site or does it also go to some central bridge collection somewhere?

    cmk

  • kls

    Keef,

    I often stopped at the east end of the old bridge to catch my breath before climbing the bridge to go home, but I have to confess that I’ve never paid any attention to the west fishing pier myself. I also didn’t realize that the bike path from Bryant Park went under the bridge.

    I’d have spent more time photographing the condemned span, but the hole in the fence wasn’t big enough to drag my bike through and there were a couple of guys lurking around who looked like they might like a new bike, so I stayed close enough to it to reduce temptation.

    After I posted the blog entry, I signed up to be an editor for http://www.bridgehunter.com/ and updated the Lake Worth Bridge entry:
    http://www.bridgehunter.com/fl/palm-beach/930318/

    As far as the factoids in the entry, Google is your friend. Some of the info came from Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel stories. The traffic count info came from a great DVD I get every year from FDOT.

    You should sign up to be a bridge hunter and we can race to see who can log them most bridges in S FL.

  • Lurch1

    I knew about the old bridge and the path under it. But it’s usually just as quick to use the road and you don’t have to meet all the fun trolls hanging out under the bridge.

    Still, I like how you keep managing to go to places I’ve been plenty of times and show new views and offer new information about them.

  • kls

    Lurch,

    Don’t knock the trolls. I like meeting them. It makes me feel like I’m back at the paper with my old colleagues.

  • A really great blog. Lots of good info. Nice photos. All the best.

  • Leslie Ann

    Charlie Glaze, like the donut? More like the homeless guy that literally lives under the Lake Worth bridge. How many times did I have to call the police on him for urinating over the side of the fishing pier near Bryant Park or drinking beer from sunset to sundown daily. I couldn’t even bring my grandkids there anymore because of all the other homeless men that sat there drinking and urinating along side him. Him nor any of his no last name friends, had any decency for peoplpe like me who wanted to sit there and enjoythe day. Something you couldn’t do at the time. Now the citizens of Lantana have to deal eith him hanging out at the fishing are where the fishing boats are at the intracoastal. There or across the street where the kids play. He can’t be arrested enough times for public urination open container! (as of 2010 and counting)

    Good old Charlie Glaze the homeless drunk strikes again.

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