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Bristol Park has a rich history

Bristol Park is shown on a sunny Wednesday morning.2 / 3
Worthington's Bristol Park bridge is shown Wednesday morning, looking toward West Dover Street.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- Most Worthington residents have probably heard of and seen "The World's Strongest Bicycle Bridge" that spans the gap between Sunset Park and Olson Park. Probably not as many have heard of what could certainly be billed as "The World's Second Strongest Bicycle Bridge" -- the steadfast bridge that connects Bristol Park and West Dover Street.

Although Bristol Park is likely more known by local residents than the communty's Intercity Park, its specific history may not be as familiar to those newer to Worthington. Bristol Park was purchased in November 1961 from J.W. and Rose Bristol for $1, and is located by the peaceful cul-de-sac at the end of Bristol Street.

"Joe Bristol was the son of a farmer and owned quite a large acreage off of McMillan Street," Worthington historian and former Daily Globe editor Ray Crippen explained.

"He farmed and sold produce, and had several apple trees."

Crippen said that much of the housing area around Bristol Street was originally part of Bristol's acreage.

"When he grew older and it became too difficult for him, he had the property platted into lots," Crippen said. "Most of the houses that were built stand where Joe's 'little farm' was." Bristol Park itself was, of course, also carved from his property.

Bristol didn't bolt from his former dominion, either.

"In later years, he lived in a white frame house with green trim on the west side of McMillan (near or on his old land)," Crippen said,

The park's bicycle bridge, however, doesn't have such a rich history.

"I don't think there was always a bridge there, but Joe may have had a log bridge that he used himself," Crippen said.

Log bridge or not, today, the land that was once Joe Bristol's acreage is a quiet residential neighborhood. Bristol Park itself has a goodly amount of shaded, open green space, with a picnic table placed near the former Rock Island railroad tracks. The raised railroad bed is clearly visible, and curious visitors can still see wooden fragments of the railroad ties embedded in the mown grass. The bed forms a nebulous sort of border to the west, while a home serves as an eastern border, and Okabena Creek, the northern border.

The playground area is large and boasts newer equipment, including the ever-popular merry-go-round. Three of the omnipresent blue-painted benches that exist in many Worthington parks are situated on three sides of the play area.

Although trains no longer rumble by -- and Joe Bristol's produce isn't feeding Worthington -- Bristol Street and Bristol Park will continue to keep the Bristol name alive and be a memory of earlier Worthington times.