BUILT in the years leading up to Federation, Kangaroo Valley's Hampden Bridge reflected the hope of a new country, according to Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association president Chris Warren.
More than 110 years later, the bridge now reflects the association's hopes that cultural tourism will help Kangaroo Valley prosper in the 21st century.
On February 25, the association will launch The Hampden Bridge Experience, an educational tourism project that tells the story of the bridge's history from when work started in 1895 through to the recently completed $4.8 million restoration of the bridge by Roads and Maritime Services.
When Hampden Bridge opened in 1898 it was the second major suspension bridge in NSW.
It is now the only surviving 19th century timber-decked vehicular suspension bridge in the state.
Visitors can read a series of interpretative signs on a self-guided walk from the bridge to Kangaroo Valley village and see a short film about its restoration and history online or on a smartphone.
The interpretative walk features seven benches, each with a sign that explains a key feature of Kangaroo Valley. The benches are made from the remaining timber from the bridge restoration and are designed to aesthetically match the original bridge.
Mr Warren said the initial description of the recent $4.8 million upgrade to the bridge as maintenance did not do the works justice.
"It was a very complicated process and the RTA [now RMS] brought in a special team from Dubbo to work on it alongside local carpenters," Mr Warren said.
"Using traditional carpentry skills, the bridge has been faithfully restored.
"It was more than just maintenance, it was conservation of a heritage asset that is an important part of our history."
Mr Warren said Hampden Bridge's remarkable stone towers were a beautiful sight.
"Visitors from all round Australia love to stop and take pictures of one of the country's most remarkable engineering achievements that is still in use and very much alive today," he said.
The $20,000 project was funded by the Kangaroo Valley community with donations from the RMS and the Shoalhaven Tourism Board.
People are invited to attend the launch on Monday, February 25, at 9.30am starting in the car park of Jing Jo Thai Restaurant in Kangaroo Valley.