Memorial Park Closings and Maintenance Notices

There is currently one closing and two notices at this location.
Birchmore Trail Bridge Permanently Closed
Facility 132 | Updated: 11:00 AM September 6, 2016 | Posted: 3:30 PM August 5, 2016
Flooding caused by heavy rains on the night of August 4th collapsed a trail bridge (Bridge 5) on the Birchmore Trail in Memorial Park. The bridge was deemed unsalvagable, and staff removed and dissembled the bridge the following week. Staff has elected to permanently close Bridge 5 while still retaining one of the trail segments associated with the bridge. The main trail loop will be rerouted around the closure using existing connector trails, affecting total length of the trail by less than 1/10 of a mile. The eastern segment leading to the removed bridge will remain open, and terminate in a rest area with a bench donated by Girl Scouts. This trail and rest area provide beautiful views of the creek and preserve access to the southern tip of the park. The western segment will be permanently closed. Please refer to map below of details. Signage and maps reflecting the changes will be installed within the month.
Photo of Collapsed Bridge on Birchmore Trail. (Facility 132)
Updated: 5:00 PM August 9, 2016
Staff assessed the collapsed bridge early this week and made the decision to remove the bridge from the trail. The bridge was deemed unsafe to pedestrian traffic since the decking and superstructure are were longer supported by any structure, having been knocked completely off the concrete pilings. Furthermore, the bridge posed an environmental hazard as it was sitting in the creek bed and fully obstructing the flow of water. With heavy rains in the forecast, the bridge needed to be removed in a timely manner to restore water flow off the site. 

Currently, a 1/10 mile section of the Birchmore Trail is closed, as noted in red on the map below. The trail loop is still accessible using a light brown connector trail, making it possible to bypass the entire closed section.

Staff are reviewing options and will update this page as information is available.

Original Post
Flooding caused by extremely heavy rains last night caused the collapse of a bridge on the southern tip of the Birchmore Trail (red star on map below). This bridge has been closed while crews assess damage and pull the bridge out of the creek.  The Birchmore Trail remains fully open on either side of the closed structure.

Updates will be posted to this page as information is available.

Birchmore Map
Bear Hollow Zoo Reopened -- Search for Screech Owl Ends
Updated: 3:45 PM, August 2, 2016 | Posted: 9:30 AM, July 23, 2016
After a week and a half of searching, Zoo staff determined that recovery of the missing screech owl was no longer probable and that the raptor had likely become prey for another animal or was possibly taken by the vandals who damaged the Zoo.

Staff and numerous community volunteers worked tirelessly and followed up on dozens of leads to no avail. A variety of methods were used in attempts to locate the owl including search parties, visiting possible locations late at night, setting up traps, leaving food in the enclosure, and playing screech owl sounds.

We thank the community for your continued support. A copy of our original post on the vandalism and missing owl is below.

Original Post
Bear Hollow Zoo--a refuge for non-releasable,Georgia-native animals--was closed to the public Saturday, July 23 following extensive vandalism which occurred Friday night. Breaking viewing windows and cutting locks, fencing, and aviary netting, vandals damaged most of the zoo's exhibits and enclosures. The damage permitted the box turtle, ducks, squirrels, and red-tailed screech owl to escape. By mid-day, zoo staff had recovered all of the missing animals except the red-tailed screech owl.

Like all of the animals at Bear Hollow, the escaped screech owl is classified as non-releasable because it cannot survive in the wild. In the case of the screech owl, damage to its wings prevents the owl from flying more than short distances making it likely that the owl is nearby. Neighbors, park users, and hikers on the Birchmore Trail are asked to be on the lookout for the missing screech owl. As seen in the photo below, the screech owl is about seven inches tall with reddish feathers and short leather straps attached to its ankles.
Photo of missing red-tailed screech owl.
Anyone spotting the owl or with information regarding the vandalism is asked to contact the Athens-Clarke County police at (706) 546-5900. If the owl is not recovered quickly, his injuries mean that he is likely to become prey or starve due to an inability to successfully hunt. If seen, the owl should not be approached as it is still a wild animal and could attack especially if it feels threatened.

Based on graffiti messages left throughout the property, the vandals appear to have been intent on freeing the zoo's animals from captivity and unaware that Bear Hollow acts as a refuge for non-releasable, Georgia-native animals.

While the zoo will reopen Sunday, July 24, damage to the barred owl and opossum exhibits and the loss of the screech owl will leave three exhibits closed. Zoo staff, maintenance crews, and trained volunteers will continue working through the coming week to fully repair the damage to all of the exhibits. For the safety of the animals and our crews, additional exhibits may be temporarily closed as necessary to facilitate repairs. We appreciate your patience as we work to fully restore our animal habitats.
The Bear Hollow Zoo web page includes more information on the zoo, its programming, and a brief history for each of our exhibit animals.

This site will be updated as repair work progresses.
Birchmore Trail Bridges 6 & 7 Replacement Complete Facilities 486 & 487 | Updated April 27, 2016 | Posted May 15, 2015
Assembly and installation of two replacement bridges on the Birchmore Trail was completed today fully reopening the Birchmore Trail almost 3 weeks ahead of our original projected schedule. The previous bridges were closed May 15, 2015 when annual inspections revealed conditions which placed the structures in danger of catastrophic failure posing an immediate risk to trail users.

The smaller of the two bridges (a 25ft. span) crosses a wash created by stormwater from Lumpkin Street which creates a ravine inside the park. The original location for this bridge was no longer viable due to erosion issues caused by the wash. As a part of the replacement, crews and volunteers rerouted the trail to a more sustainable area. The reroute also gives trail users the opportunity to enjoy a grove of trees in the park planted by the Junior League. (Photo on left below.)

The larger of the two bridges (a 45 ft. span) rides the crest of an old earthen farm pond dam from the 1800's crossing a breach in the center of the dam which was used to decommission the old pond. You can see the remnants of the terraces of the old farm as you follow the Birchmore Trail on through the property. (Photo on right below.)

Combining efforts from surveyors, civil engineers, structural engineers, bridge designers, and trail volunteers with the expertise of our Trails and Open Spaces, Park Maintenance, and Park Planning staff, these bridges should be viable for a generation to come.

Completion of these bridges fully restores public access to the Birchmore Trail, however, trail users should note that there are several maintenance projects still underway to further improve safety and the user experience. These include new trail maker installation, replacement of a small ditch crossing, and repairs to another of the trail bridges.

The full history of this project can be viewed here.

Photo of completed 25 foot-long fiberglass trail bridge crossing the Lumpkin Street stormwater wash
Photo of completed 45 foot-long fiberglass trail bridge crossing the breached earthen farm pond dam

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