A large section of the historic Shark Channel Bridge collapsed into the water on or around April 15, one day after officials closed the bridge, which was only open to pedestrians and fishermen. CONTRIBUTED

The partial collapse a month ago of the historic Shark Channel fishing bridge at MM 11 prompted officials to permanently close the bridge, along with six other relics of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway that line U.S. 1.

“Currently, seven bridges along the Overseas Heritage Trail are closed for safety purposes. The Niles Channel Bridge was closed in 2011 and South Pine Channel Bridge was closed in 2012.  The Ohio-Missouri, Ohio-Bahia Honda, Missouri-Little Duck and Lower Sugarloaf were closed in 2014. In April 2022, to ensure the safety of our visitors, DEP closed the Shark Key Bridge along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail,” Erin McDade, deputy press secretary for FDEP, told the Keys Weekly in a May 5 email. “These seven bridges are closed to all pedestrian and recreation activities, and boaters in the area should exercise caution when nearby. All visitors are asked to adhere to posted signage and respect the barricades. DEP will coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation to determine the next steps for the closed bridges along the Overseas Heritage Trail. Visitor safety is our priority as we determine the path forward. We apologize for any inconvenience and will provide updates on the trail’s webpage as they become available.”

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is designed to provide an alternative bicycle and pedestrian route down the Florida Keys. The trail includes 23 historic railway bridges, seven of which are now closed.

The Keys Weekly first reported the partial collapse and closure of the Shark Channel Bridge on April 15, and requested copies of inspection and maintenance reports from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the 23 historic pedestrian bridges that are part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

“We’re working on compiling the inspection reports you requested,” McDade told the Keys Weekly on May 5. “The bridges are part of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway built around the turn of the century. At more than 100 years old, the bridges are no longer used for transportation purposes; however, they are continually evaluated for safety concerns.”

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.