It is not rare that when a person is on vacation, far far away where he is not reachable that he comes home to an urgent message on the answering machine or in your e-mail inbox begging for help. While I was away at the peninsula of Holnis, located northeast of Flensburg northern Schleswig-Holstein, a gentleman provided an SOS to anyone who could help him save a unique bridge from becoming a pile of scrap metal and replaced with an ugly concrete culvert that is a 20th of the length of the original bridge itself. As I had posted about the call for mystery bridges to be solved prior to my departure in the second week of August, it was not surprising that he asked me for his help.
Wayne Keller needs your help. He is currently compiling some information and ways to save the Mulberry Creek Bridge. Located southwest of Ford in Ford County, Kansas (which is southeast of Dodge City), the bridge features two 85 foot pinned connecting Pratt through truss spans with Howe Lattice portal bracings (9-rhombus with curved heel bracings).
The bridge was built in 1906 by the Kansas City Bridge Company at its original location, Second Avenue in Dodge City. It featured six 85 foot spans over the Arkansas River. In 1935, the bridge was replaced by a concrete span, but the truss spans were relocated to Coronado Road, where it was in service until 1958 when it was replaced by a concrete bridge on a new alignment. Two of the spans were salvaged and relocated to Valley Road, where it has been in place since 1959. The bridge has been susceptible to flooding as it is located near a watershed, which is over 15o square miles. The bridge now serves a general maintenance road and is rarely used. But it becomes a dirt road after passing the Keller Ranch. Yet if the county commissioners have it their way, the bridge will be history before year’s end. The last inspection in May of this year revealed a broken pin in one of the connections between the diagonal and vertical beams and the bridge was subsequentially closed to all traffic. On 4 June, 2012, the commissioners voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with a concrete culvert that is seven feet long- an intelligent choice given the fact that the creek is wider than the culvert, and culverts are susceptible to erosion caused by high water, as well as flooding upstream. There was an attempt to sell the bridge to Mr. Keller three years earlier but despite his agreement to the proposal, the deal never bore fruit for unknown reasons.
Mr Keller is looking for some information on the bridge to make it eligible for the National Register but also for ways to keep the bridge in service- and on his property, even if it means fixing the structure to keep it open for private use only. Judging by the information found so far, the bridge has potential to be considered historically significant and repairs on the bridge will prolong its life by up to 50 years, while at the same time, is 70% cheaper than replacing it with a culvert and allow the road to be dammed up, causing flooding upstream and potentially lawsuits by farmers and ranchers affected. More information in the form of oral sources and other articles to help justify the case for saving the bridge is also welcomed.
If you have any information that will be helpful to Mr. Keller in his quest to save the bridge, please contact him at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to address the logic and importance in saving the bridge and cutting down on the cost, please contact the Ford County commissioners using the following information:
Jerry King: 620-385-2975
Christopher Boys 620-225-0800
Terry Williams: 620-225-1104
Update from Wayne Keller:
The plan of the county engineer is to removed the bridge an sell as scrap
metal and replace with a metal seven foot culvert. The bridge is 170 long
and is about 15 feet above the channel. The proposed culvert will be buried
one foot below the channel and the top of the road will be about 12 feet
below the deck of the current bridge. So the cross sectional area of the
opening for water flow will go from basically a triangle 170 along the top
and 15 of depth or about 1,275 square feet to the opening the culvert 38.5
square feet less maybe a square foot that is buried below the channel.
The bridge is on a general maintenance township road and provides me all
weather access to my residence(our family residence since 1905) and my ranch
and cow calf herd. It is also the mail route. From my driveway going east,
the roads become minimum maintenance township roads and are very nasty due
to eroded roadbeds that now serve as ditches when it is wet. The bridge is
my one and only connection to the outside world in wet weather. During wet
weather access to the other lands, which are only farmlands with no
residences, that are east of my driveway are not accessible except by ATV or
high clearance 4WD vehicles. Therefore, during wet weather, I, my hired hand
and the mail man have to use the bridge, along with emergency services if
needed at my place, and no other landowner can use the bridge for to access
their property because of the minimum maintenance road system past my
Update from BHC (12/20/2021):
The bridge has been closed to all traffic since 2016. The barriers are up, but one can walk across it according to information from some fellow bridgehunters. Nevertheless, attempts are needed to preserve the bridge for future use. In case you have some ideas, use the contact information in the text above and/or provide some ideas in the bridgehunter.com website.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the developments with this mystery bridge and would like to thank you for your support.