Built in 1881, the bridge, more formally known as the Trail Creek Trestle, appears to be standing only precariously yet is surprisingly hardy as well. Long abandoned, the wooden structure was purchased by the city in 2000 from CSX, at the behest of R.E.M. fans who didn't want to see it demolished. Now it is a bit of a financial liability: it is dangerous and would cost a lot of local tax dollars to properly preserve.
It's significance is largely arbitrary and dubious at that — I mean, it was only the back cover after all, and its not like the city is in short supply of weird old structures overrun by brambles and kudzu. Even the railroad that ran on it only went to Augusta, a place, it was soon found out, few wanted to visit, at least from Athens at any rate.
I never could find the exact angle of the original album artwork, a failure that in itself is a perfect tribute to the murkily haunting album that has elegantly and stubbornly outlived its era.