Archived Story

Grotte the brains behind suspension bridge

Published 6:00am Monday, January 20, 2014

The suspension bridge has been a landmark in Pelican Rapids for close to four decades. Luther Grotto, 88, who died Tuesday, Jan. 14, designed the bridge and followed it through to completion in 1975.

The original idea for the bridge came from the late Truman Strand and the late Ted Resset, both members of the Pelican Rapids Rotary Club. Needing some expertise and planning assistance, they were referred to Grotto who headed Otter Tail Power Company’s special engineering services department in Fergus Falls.

In 1959, Strand took the lead in getting the pelican statue positioned just east of Broadway near Mill Pond and close to downtown Pelican Rapids. He also was instrumental in helping Maplewood State Park get started in the early 1960s, with help from Dr. Norman Baker and Rudy Gustafson, both of Fergus Falls, and others.

As for the suspension bridge planning, Strand quickly realized he had an expert with Grotte on board.

Grotte worked closely with the contractor, Resset Construction of Pelican Rapids.

The dream of Strand and Resset was to have the suspension bridge link E.L. Peterson Park and Sherin Park, over the Pelican River.

Grotte made their dream a reality. Today, the length of the walkway is 250 feet and the height of the towers above the water is 30 feet.

Over the years thousands of people have crossed the suspension bridge during Art in the Park, Turkey Days, the International Friendship Festival and other events in Pelican Rapids.

Under directions from Grotte, the concrete abutments were designed to be poured in three phases. This was done so that large pins holding the main suspension cables could be pre-stressed properly. Grotte emphasized that they needed to withstand the tension placed upon them.

Grotte designed 25 reinforced concrete slabs. Each deck underbeam was designed so that the slabs would fit together while keeping the structure in perfect balance.

That was Luther, with his attention to details.

The slabs had to be made just right, so as to keep the structure capable of surviving loads and stresses from use and thermal expansion.

The deck of the suspension bridge raises and lowers with the changes in temperatures. It’s a higher elevation in the winter than in the summer.

Were it not for Grotte volunteering his assistance and heading up the project, the dollar amount ($60,000 in the mid-1970s) would have been much higher.

The distance between the towers is 120 feet and the depth of the pier foundation below the water is 30 feet. Total weight of the walkway is 100,000 pounds. Weight of the steel is 22 tons and total weight of the suspension bridge is 400,000 pounds.

Those of us who worked with Grotte at Otter Tail Power Company remember a man who was highly intelligent and who also was a nice guy. Luther, whose funeral will be held Monday, will long be remembered.


Snowshoeing a delight

at Glendalough Park

Sunset Lake, with a one-mile circular trail, is great for snowshoeing at Glendalough State Park, northeast of Battle Lake. Our family found this out on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Traditional snowshoes include a hardwood frame with rawhide lacings. Most modern snowshoes are made of lightweight metal, plastic and synthetic fabric. In addition to distributing the weight, snowshoes are most often raised at the toe for maneuverability.

To no surprise Sunset Lake, located just north of the Glendalough State Park headquarters on the west side of the main road, is named for its beautiful sunsets. The one-mile trail passes through prairie and oak savannah.

The winter trail at Sunset Lake also is used by snowmobilers and cross country skiers. Winter visitors can easily also walk around the lake during the winter months.

We’re fortunate that Glendalough State Park is open all four seasons of the year. The same holds true for Maplewood State Park, east of Pelican Rapids.








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