Riverside Bridge: No Trespassing or else! Ordinance passed

The Christian County Commissioners on Thursday passed an ordinance barring anyone from entering and crossing the bridge. Those caught crossing the bridge will be fined $500. According to the County Commissioner Lou Lapaglia, the ordinance was justified for two reasons, which were for fear of liability in case anyone is hurt on the bridge and fear of vandalism to the bridge. Until further notice, the bridge will remained fenced off on both ends to ensure that no one enters or cross the bridge.

The ordinance does produce some mixed reactions on the part of many people including the author of the Chronicles. On the one hand, since the organization wanting to save the bridge and its director, Kris Dyer want to renovate the bridge for pedestrian use, fencing off the bridge does make sense in a way that it would keep potential vandals off the bridge. In the past, bridges closed to vehicular traffic but left open for pedestrians have witnessed various sorts of vandalism, stemming from spray painting certain bridge parts and the flooring to setting fire to the bridge deck destroying sections of it to even taking sections of the bridge, like in the case of a through truss bridge, ornaments, plaques and railings. An example of such an act occurred in 1996, when a group of teenagers set a wooden trestle bridge outside of Chaska, Minnesota (near Minneapolis) on fire, even though the structure was destined to become a pedestrian trail after the railroad company that owned it, Chicago and Northwestern (now part of Union Pacific) had abandoned it. The fire severely damaged 70% of the entire structure, including the trestles supporting the deck. It was unknown whether or not the arsonists were ever found, but the bridge was fenced off afterwards and is now facing being washed away by the upcoming floods destined to hit the Twin Cities in April. This incident was a fine example of how barricading a bridge is justified to avoid incidents like this and the liability that goes along with crossing the bridge.

Link to the bridge: http://pegnsean.net/~johnm/Chaska%20Trestle.html

Yet on the other hand, erecting an 8-foot fence at both ends of the bridge to keep people off the bridge and enforcing an ordinance is overexaggerating; especially in the eyes of those who wanted to keep the bridge open; even one suggested posting a sign saying ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK, which was rejected for liability reasons by the county commission. Many bridges, like the Riverside Crossing were restricted to pedestrian traffic for many months or even years without any reports of litigation because of injury on the structure. Many people in Ozark use this bridge on a regular basis to walk or bike across the river. Unfortunately, this option can no longer be used and alternative crossings will have to be found and used until the bridge reopens again.

Such cases are no stranger, as a bridge in Jackson County, Minnesota for example suffered that particular fate, with the Petersburg Road crossing located in the southern end of its county seat, Jackson. Built in 1907 by Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, this single span Pratt through triss bridge was closed to traffic in 1985 due to structural deterioration, but a group managed to keep it open to pedestrians and bikers for another seven years until it was fenced off in November 1992. This served as an excellent shortcut for many living in the southern end of town; especially the children. But with the closing in 1992 and its removal just over two years later, people were forced to use the next crossing three miles upstream- by car only!

Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson, MN (USA) Photo taken by the author in 1992

The future of the Riverside Bridge is now in the hands of the committee to save the bridge and its director, Kris Dyer. The organization needs enough money to make the necessary repairs and make it safe for use as a pedestrian bridge. While it is unclear how much this will all cost, estimates for making the repairs according to Matthews Engineering ranged from $130-180,ooo. The engineering consultant will present a full report on the bridge to determine the condition of the bridge and all eyes will be on not only the state of the structure, but also the estimates for fixing the bridge to reopen again and whether or not Missouri Department of Transportation will allow the bridge to be reopen period, as the agency, which is involved in the project, had recommened the bridge be closed to both vehiculars (which happened in September, 2010) and pedestrians (half a year later).  Also important is whether the county will help at all with the work- as it is $700,000 in debt according to Lapaglia- or will take advantage of cost-cutting measures and federal funding available by demolishing the bridge and replacing it with a current structure instead of looking for alternatives, like having a crossing on a different alignment. In either case, even if demolition is preferred, because the bridge is eligible for nomination on the National Register of Historic Places, it must go through the Section 106 process, which was introduced as part of the 1966 National Preservation Act and whose mission is to determine the environmental impact of altering or replacing the bridge as well as find alternatives to demolition. This process could take months to complete and perhaps by the time it is finished, there will be enough funds to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge.

More to come as the events unfold…..

If you are interested in donating to save the bridge, here are a couple links to help you. The second link is a facebook page which has some information on how to donate for the cause. Please preserve an important fabric of American history by making a donation. Every little bit does make a big difference.

Links:

1. https://ssl.4agoodcause.com/cfozarks/donation1.aspx?id=1

2. http://www.facebook.com/saveriversidebridge?sk=info

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