Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored- To Be Part Of Local Park Trail

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Springfield Bridge at sunset. Unless noted, photos taken by Workin Bridges and BACH Steel for press release use.

Historic Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored after a nearly one-year project to relocate the structure to a city park. Dedication ceremony on 23 September in Conway.

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CONWAY, ARKANSAS- Bridge crews and preservationists are celebrating the rebirth of one of the oldest surviving historic bridges in Arkansas. The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is back in use after a record-breaking stint, which featured the disassembling, relocation, restoration and rassembling of the 1871 structure, a product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, all within a span of ca. nine months! Usually, such projects last between 1-2 years, pending on the truss type, length and width and the way it should be restored. For other bridges, such as arches, suspension bridges and viaduct, it may take up to five years, pending on how it is restored.  The Springfield Bridge, with its main span of 146 feet and a width of 12 feet, is one of the longest of its kind built by King that is left. However when looking back at the bridge before its relocation from the Faulkner-Conway county line to Conway City in November 2016, it presented a totally different picture- a rather sad one when looking at it through the lens of Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel.

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Springfield Bridge before its relocation. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Workin’ Bridges is a non  profit organization based in Grinnell, Iowa that is dedicated to historic bridge preservation, and Bach Structural and Oranmental Steel (BACH Steel) of Holt, Michigan. Six years after the completion of a study by Raynor and Bowers , the historic bridge restoration project was successfully completed. The success was due to a rare collaboration between the City of Conway, Faulkner County, and Dr. Ken Barnes of the Faulkner County Historical Society who was essential in the writing and successful grant application and petitioning the City of Conway to find a place to move the bridge. Permission to move was granted by the National Park Service for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A dedication to the restoration and future of this iron bowstring will be held Saturday, September 23rd at 10:00 am  at Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway, Arkansas.

The iron truss was fabricated in 1871 and erected in 1874 over E. Cadron Creek between Faulkner and Conway Counties as the first and oldest highway bridge built for farm to market requirements by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The bridge restoration was funded by City of Conway tourism dollars used for parks, Faulkner County equipment, expertise and  funds for the extra crane, with the help of Metroplan which allowed the restructuring of grant funding to allow preservation to move forward.

The bridge was removed from the Cadron in November of 2016. The BACH Steel  Rivet Gang went to work with the disassembly and marking the members for transportation to a paint removal company in Little Rock, managed by Snyder Environmental. Workin’ Bridges was then given the job of designing the new substructure at Lake Beaverfork, engineered by James Schiffer of Schiffer Engineering Group of Traverse City, Michigan.

Once the caissons were designed, drilled, formed and poured,  and covered with riveted columns repairs to the bridge trusses began. Nels Raynor of BACH Steel is the premier bridge restoration craftsman throughout the United States that specializes in restoring bridges the old fashioned way. “In Kind” restoration means that parts are replaced with similar parts, rivets replaced with rivets and if new parts are required they are fashioned with care. When asked Raynor stated: “This one stands out as one of the most beautiful. I wish there were more people like those of Conway and Faulkner County. Those who wish to protect and save their hesitate. It’s part of my life’s work to preserve those structures. My company has been bless with finding those with the same passion inmy partners Derek and Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagel and Brock. Behind the scenes we have my daughter Heather Raynor, Nathan Holth and Jim Schiffer. We want to thank everyone for giving us the creative freedom to make this one of the most memorable and beautiful bridges we have ever been involved with.”

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Close-up of the work done on the bridge, which includes new decking and railing, plus restoration that is in-kind.

Jack Bell, Chief of Staff for the City of Conway, Mark Ledbetter, Director of Roads for Faulkner County, Steve Ibbotson, Director of Parks for the City of Conway and Judge Baker were the team that provided the collaborative efforts to make this a successful project. They teamed up for all of the site requirements, from building a road and crane pad to the old location on Cadron Creek, to building the roads and crane pad for the reset at Lake Beaverfork. They utilized reclaimed stone from the original abutments to sculpt the new location with retaining walls and provide a bench for viewing. Bell said, “The partnership between Workin’ Bridges, BACH Steel, Faulkner and the City of Conway was essential to bring this project to fruition.  A significant piece of Faulkner County history has been saved and an iconic amenity has been added to our Parks system.”

New railings, as required by law, were designed by Raynor and company, who were able to provide historically accurate laced and riveted railing, using requirements for today’s pedestrians. The rail was then sent to Conway, where the local historical society teamed up with Workin’ Bridges to  promote the “Paint the Rail” campaign. The campaign successfully contributed the funds needed to coat the rail, using a PPG product delivered by Furgerson Brothers Painting.

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Nels Raynor answering questions from reporters.

The restoration will be featured in a documentary filmed by Terry Strauss of Ultimate Restorations and should be available for viewing on PBS and through Amazon Prime in the fall of 2017. It will be featured in a later article provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The project was also documented by Workin’ Bridges with the aid of Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. The bridge was built by craftsmen and the record of their work, the “craftsman’s record” was evident in each cast and riveted piece in the bridge said  Raynor. “To think that this all started six years ago with a site visit to Arkansas with my son Brock and Bowers with Workin’ Bridges. What this bridge has become today is just amazing to me and I have been involved with many bridge projects”.

It is a testament to the fact that we work better together, always have. The collaboration made a very big bridge project manageable, and used resources in a way that reduced time and material cost”, stated Bowers from her office in Holt, Michigan. “One never knows if a site visit that renders real numbers for project evaluation will become a job. These bridges take a lot of time, craftsmanship and money, but in the end it is all about making memories. The collaboration worked well and rendered a project that could have cost far more into an affordable package for the parks system.”

More information about the bridge, pictures from the process can be found at Springfield Bridge on Facebook. Questions may be directed to Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com. The Chronicles would like to congratulations to Julie, Nels and the rest of the crew for bringing a relict back to life. Thanks to you, you’ve just given people a chance to learn more about the history of Conway County, King and American infrastructure. 🙂

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