Workin Bridges withdraws support due to questions about its transparency and methods of preservation; Friends of the Gasconade Bridge regrouping to find other ways of preserving the historic bridge.
HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- Members of the Group Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians are regrouping after a major donor, Workin Bridges, has withdrawn support for preserving the historic bridge near Hazelgreen. According to a statement by the director Julie Bowers, the Grinell, Iowa-based organization plans to return the $6900 in donations to the members beginning this week after having been confronted by many members of the Route 66 Guardians about the organization’s credibility and transparency in terms of collecting donations and using the money for preserving the bridge.
In a statement provided by Ed Klein at Route 66 World, he stated that the lack of communication between Bowers and members affiliated with not only the efforts to preserve the historic bridge but other Route 66 organizations combined with a lack of vision was one of the key factors in leading to some discord during the project:
Actually, the Guardians were the ones who started it, and if I remember correctly they reached out to see who can help, and your group came in, on your white horse, to save the day. To be fair, it seemed like this is ‘what you do’ so at the time it seemed like a natural fit BUT as time went on and very little info was passed out and around, and the fact of any real transparency of where the money is going, we are here at this moment fighting about it.
— If you feel the bridge will not be saved in the alloted time, why the continuous fundraising and donations?
— If the bridge does not get saved, what happens to the funds that were given to you to save the BRIDGE, and not for admin and travel costs?
— Is there more than one “bucket” for funds (donations for particular bridge projection versus admin and other expenses)?
— If not, why not?
— If so, why is the donations for repairing the bridge (and engineering costs) going elsewhere (like road trips)?
And for the record, I can swear on the lives of my children the vast majority of us would be RIGHT behind you and helping you, but you never once asked (other than donations) and the information we all received as a sparse, if at all.
This is not new as some have reported that there have been other historic bridge projects that were burned by the organization’s politicking, including one in Iowa where members of that group are seeking returned funding collected by Workin Bridges through legal action.
Bowers said according to MoDOT estimates, repairing the bridge would take $3.1 million, including $1.2 million in removing lead paint. This was disputed by Rich Dinkela, one of the members of the Guardians Group, claiming that the removal of lead paint from the bridge may not be a necessity in restoring the bridge. Dinkela is one of the leaders of the group and has a collection of videos on youtube that is devoted to Route 66 (click here for details). A Revive 66 website had been planned where donations of $66 per person would go towards projects along the Mother Road, including the Gasconade Bridge. A total of $7000 had been collected before Bowers cut the cord on the project last week. That money collected was meant for marketing, yet as Dinkela mention in an interview, it was one of many grandiose ideas for the project, which included establishing an investment account, where the interest accrued from the thousands of dollars donated would be used for insurance and inspections. Another was converting the bridge into the longest bar on the route- a concept mentioned by John McNulty, manager of Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona.
With many ideas out there that were met with scrutiny and opposition because of the practicality, combined with the lack of information regarding the actual sum for the preservation project and what is needed to restore the bridge, both sides agreed to part ways, with Bowers moving onto other bridge projects and Dinkela and other members returning to the drawing table to conceive a new plan as to how this 94-year old bridge can be saved.
But time is running out. The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to construct a replacement parallel to the historic bridge in 2019 and hopes to integrate it into some park or recreation area. However if no funds are collected to restore the bridge before the completion of the bridge and no owner is willing to step forward to own it, the Gasconade Bridge may find itself in a pile of scrap heap by 2021 at the latest.
To follow up on the events with the Gasconade Bridge, please click on the following webpages:
Route 66 Gasconade Bridge Guardians: https://www.facebook.com/rt66gasconadebridgeguardians/?hc_ref=ARScgMAIJfHFAeNr3Wn7iR52zyeuArwpkFFcWrNYZDUQnrtG30uyju0RqQ04qixQ9SA
A summary of my interview with Rich Dinkela about this bridge can be found here. This includes the bridge’s history as well as its connection with the beloved highway many even outside the US love.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you updated on the latest with this historic bridge, whose future is still clouded but it is hoped the organization will come up with plans to save it as they see fit. 🙂