"Five Shovelmen" unveil new bridge for Sparta residents - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

"Five Shovelmen" unveil new bridge for Sparta residents

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SPARTA, Wis. (WXOW) – Bridges in Sparta have become a common trend, thanks to “The Five Shovelmen”, a volunteer group from the city.

The group, which includes Sparta residents Al Jenkins, Jim Cook, Jerry Kast, Kerry Schumann, and Reinhard Mueller have made their mission simple—help Sparta move forward.

The Shovelmen said adding bridges in Sparta helps connect bikers, snowmobilers, and walkers to city parks and their newest bridge connects better access for nursing home residents to nearby Evans-Bosshard Park.

“Things either go up or they go down, but they don’t stay the same. For the leadership of Sparta, we want things to go up,” Mueller said.

Sparta is known for biking and since 2009, Mueller and the volunteer group have built three covered bridges and one open trestle bridge throughout the city.

“I think it brings a lot of ‘espirit de corps’ and good feeling and a feeling of self-worth for the citizens of Sparta. We are not just putting a log across two rocks to get across the river, but we’re doing it in a very exceptional way,” Mueller said.

The Mary Morrow Bridge project spanned from Labor Day weekend through May. Compared to past bridge projects, Mueller said the Mary Morrow Bridge (named after the founder of Morrow Memorial Nursing Home) provides a different aura, as the bridge is made from the heart.

“This last bridge is very unique that it was built absolutely from scratch using rough-hewn materials. It is completely secured using wooden dowels or tree nails for all the structural components,” Mueller said.

Mueller’s community service has been recognized in the past, as he has a Jefferson Award linked to his name. The award is nicknamed the “Nobel Prize” of Public Service, and it emphasized Mueller’s work with bridge projects.

Mueller though would be the first one to say that it’s hard for him to solely accept credit for any kind of award, because volunteering and building is a true team effort. According to Mueller, the City of Sparta has asked the Five Shovelmen if they’d like to start working on another bridge project in Amundson Park in the near future. The future of the project though has not yet been confirmed.

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