Preservation often involves recycling the purpose of a structure: Change its use but keep the original design -- or adaptive reuse, to get clinical about it.
One of the most successful repurposing projects is New York City's High Line Park, a greenway built on top of a mile of abandoned railroad tracks. It's a metro attraction year-round that turned a not-so-pretty stretch of elevated tracks into a lush, open place to walk, attend a concert or just chill.
A similar plan for the old Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon is now in the works, and it's a great idea.
Originally built as part of Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway in the early 1900s, the bridge was considered a major engineering feat at the time. It was replaced with a new span in the early 1980s.
But it never lost its appeal to locals and visitors alike. The remaining 2.2-mile span accessible to the public is a great place to take a stroll, exercise or watch a spectacular Keys sunset.
But as it has deteriorated, the Florida Department of Transportation has been considering closing the 100-year-old span to public access for safety and budget reasons.
No more. Thanks to officials from DOT, Monroe County and the city of Marathon working together throughout the fall, a plan is being hammered out to turn the bridge into a park.
A little over $77 million has been designated by DOT, the county and the city for repairs and to cover 30 years of maintenance. DOT will foot $57 million of the bill over the next three decades and retain ownership of the bridge. Monroe County will contribute $14.2 million and Marathon $5.3 million.
A preservation group called Friends of Old Seven plans a fundraising campaign for private donors to help pay for beautification on the bridge and nearby areas.
One of those neighbors is Pigeon Key, an island where Flagler's railroad workers stayed and accessible by walking, biking or skating the old Seven Mile; or by boat. There are several typical Keys cottages on the tiny, picturesque island, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It's a charming Keys historical attraction. Converting the bridge into a park will be a boost for the island's staunch supporters and fans.
And Marathon hopes to gain from the linear, elevated park, as well. City boosters believe it will draw overnight visitors who, these days, just stop for gas or drive straight through to Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key and Key West in the Lower Keys.
A lot of credit should be doled out to the folks from DOT, Monroe County and Marathon.
Early last fall it looked like the bridge would eventually be closed to the public as saltwater and other elements continued to eat at it and the price tag for repairs kept rising. But wiser thinking prevailed. Flagler would be pleased.