Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge
BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.
Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here: https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge
Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.
During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage. A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:
Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.
The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.
The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.
Between Schneeberg and Zwickau in western Saxony is a small town of Kirchberg. With a population of 8,700 inhabitants, Kirchberg straddles the Rödelbach River, which empties into the Zwickau Mulde River in Wilkau-Hasslau, approximately five kilometers north of the town. In addition to that, Kirchberg is known as the City with Seven Hills, as all seven hills surround the small community, protecting it from the weather extremities, especially in the winter time. Yet it is most difficult to get to the next available towns because of the winding roads one needs to go through. And Kirchberg is one of the most expanded communities with the least population density in Saxony, for 12 Kilometers of area in all directions belong to the community, including all of the small suburbs.
While Kirchberg has a rather historic but sleepy town center (because buisness usually closes at 3:00pm on weekdays, non on Saturdays), a church on the hill and a couple notable historic bridges along the Rödelbach, one bridge in particular is the focus of this article because of ist unusual design and a classic example of a restored truss bridge. The Sonnebrücke Truss Bridge spans the Rödelbach on the east end of Kirchberg (see map below). The bridge, built in 1882, is unique because of its unusual design.
For instance, the bridge is a pony truss built on a 45° skew. The skewed formation is easy to detect because one can see it from the main highway on ground level and from the hillside on the north bank of the river, it resembles a shoe. The harder part is identifying the truss type for from a distance, it appears to be a bowstring arch span. Yet when taking a closer look, the bridge is actually a Parker pony truss, mainly because of the slight bends of the upper chord per panel. The 24.5 meter truss bridge has nine panels with the highest panel being 1.7 meters tall. How the bridge was built is the most difficult of all because you can only see the details up close while on the bridge. For instance, the bridge has welded connections, meaning that the beams are attached with gusset plates and welded nails. Given its age, this type of practice was first introduced in the 1880s and the Sonnebrücke is one of the first bridges built using this type of practice. It is one of the rarest bridges whose upper chord consists of a rare type that is seldomly found in truss bridges. While most truss bridges used H, I and T beams for their upper chords and end posts, this one has upper chords whose parts consists of L-shaped beams welded together making it appear like a cross-shaped beam. No truss bridge in the eastern half of Germany has such an unusual chord like that. It is even rarer when compared to the American Phoenix column, which was used on many iron truss bridges in the 1870s and 80s and has round-shaped columns with 4-8 points in the corners.
The Kingdom of Saxony authorized the construction of the Sonnenbrücke in 1882 as part of the railroad project connecting Wilkau-Haslau with Carlsfeld via Kirchberg and Schönheide near the present-day Eibenstock Reservoir. From 1882 until its discontinuation in 1967, passenger and freight trains crossed this bridge daily. It was one of 54 bridges that the line went over, which included six viaducts in and near the Mulde River. Even though the line was discontinued in its entirety by 1980, the Sonnebrücke is one of only a handful of crossings remaining on the line, which has been dismantled in large sections but abandoned on other stretches of track, including the line between Schönheide and Carlsfeld. When the line was discontinued in sections and tracks were taken out, all the bridges and viaducts were removed with steel parts recycled for other uses. Attempts to save some of the viaducts were put down due to lack of financial resources and pressure by the East German government to support the communist system by making use of every resource possible. The Sonnebrücke remained hidden from view for another 40+ years until city officials collaborated with locals and a pair of restoration companies in Saxony to restore and repurpose the structure for recreational use. This happened in 2014 at a cost of 90,000 Euros. There, the bridge was sandblasted and repainted black, some parts were replaced because of the rust and corrosion, and a new flooring made of wood replaced the rail decking which no longer served its function.
Today, the Sonnebrücke continues to cross the Rödelbach River but has a new function, which is to provide cyclists and pedestrians with an opportunity to explore the town along the river. This bridge and another crossing at the Hauptstrassebrücke are both part of the former rail line that had once had trains going through Kirchberg, stopping at two stations in town. Today, it carries as a bike trail and even though only a section of the former rail line is used as a rails to trails, the Sonnebrücke and the line that crossed over serves not only as a reminder of a railroad that had once been part of Kirchberg’s history and heritage but also as an example of an unusual truss bridge which had long since been forgotten but the city took care that it received a new purpose in life. It definitely shows that even with a small portion of money, one can make use of it and make it like it was brand new.
And with few historic artefacts left in our world, we need more examples of history being restored for generations to learn about. 🙂
Hirschgraben Viaduct at the Castle Complex to be Completely Rebuilt; Former Mulde Crossing to become Rest Area for Bikes
GLAUCHAU (SAXONY)- While driving (or even Walking) through Glauchau in western Saxony in Germany, one cannot avoid several construction barriers and even downed trees in several places within the community of 24,000, located between Zwickau and Chemnitz. As part of the plan to beautify the city, several Buildings sitting empty or abandoned are scheduled to be repurposed or torn down. And that applies to a couple of the city’s key crossings. A former site of a historic Bridge is about to become a rest area and picnic area for cyclists whereas a historic Bridge near the Castle complex is about to be demolished and rebuilt to mimic the original Bridge from the 1700s. Details about the two Projects can be found here:
Hirschgrund Bridge to be completely rebuilt as part of the Castle beautification project
Connecting the Fordere and Hintere Glauchau Castles with the city park to the south, the 300+ year old Hirschgrund Viaduct is the oldest known bridge in Glauchau, let alone one of the longest and tallest of the city’s bridges. At approximately 75 meters long and 15 meters high, the bridge consists of five arches built mainly of brick and concrete, although it is unclear whether the concrete was added later or was part of the construction. The bridge has been neglected for over 40 decades and closed to all pedestrians for almost that long, thus causing it to decay rapidly, forming cracks in the concrete and exposing the red brick. Vines have been growing on the structure and some accounts in the social media have described the bridge as wobbling while walking over the deep ravine. All the vines, the wooden scaffolding to support one of the arches and other coverings are about to become a thing of the past, for the Glauchau City Council recently approved a 1.3 million Euro project to completely rebuild the viaduct. According to the Free Press, the entire structure is scheduled to be completely taken down, then using the materials from the old structure, will be completely rebuilt mimicking the 17th Century viaduct when it was opened to horse and buggy. The project is expected to last 1-2 years pending on any unforseen circumstances. The complete rebuild of the viaduct is part of the controversial project to beautify the Castle Complex- in particular the courtyard in front of the Fordere Castle on the east side. At the cost of 500,000, the courtyard is supposed to be converted to a multifunctional arena with shelter house, steel flower tubs, park benches, an aluminum pergola and electric outlet. The proposal has been met with hefty criticism because of the lack of taste and conformity with the castle’s surroundings. Even an article written by a local architect suggested alternatives to the proposal that is more appropriate and based on a total agreement by the parties involved (click here to read the article by Kathleen Scheurer). Already, the trees at the courtyard have been removed giving the castle complex a bare-naked appearance:
How the castle complex will look like, once the five-month project ends in October remains open.
Meerane (Upper Mulde) Bridge Abutment to become a Picnic/Rest Area
For over two decades since the construction of the current structure and the removal of the 1880s historic bridge, the remaining eastern abutment has sat in its place, covered with vegetation and garbage and looking like an eyesore. Come April, it will become an eyesore no more. At the cost of 10,000 Euros, the vegetation area will be removed and the eastern abutment will be repurposed as a picnic and rest area for pedestrians and cyclists. Included will be a bike stand, benches and garbage cans in and around the abutment near the pedestrian crossing at Meerane and Linden Streets. That portion of the project will take three weeks to complete, according to the Free Press. This is part of a bigger project which the shoreline of the Zwickau Mulde River will be cleaned up and converted into a park and trail setting, using land from abandoned buildings that either have been torn down or are scheduled to be removed in the near future. Already in the works is the plan to have a bike trail connecting the bridge with the Zimmerstrasse Covered Bridge, located near the Wehrdigt Elementary School. In the long term, the Mulde Bike Trail will go through Glauchau along the river instead of along the Diversion Canal, a plus for those wanting to see the city’s historic bridges along the river. One can also see the bridges leading to the Castle Complex from that proposed stretch of trail. As for the Meerane Bridge, the east abutment is the remains of the 1880s Town Lattice truss bridge built by local bridge builder Heinrich Carl Hedrich, who was responsible for the construction of a diversion canal around Glauchau, Germany’s first water main systems as well as several dams, mills and bridges in Glauchau and along the Mulde. The bridge was replaced on alignment in the 1990s and subsequently removed once the new structure opened.
With the ongoing changes that are happening in and around Glauchau also comes the updates in the Bridge Tour Guide of Glauchau. Several photos have been added on the castle bridges as well as the Wave, plus some updates based on the current developments which will be followed closely in the Chronicles. To see the updates, click here, which will take you to the guide again. There, you will find more pictures and information so that you can better get to know the bridges in and around the city. Enjoy! 🙂
Looks can be deceiving in this picture above. Taken last week right before the Arctic/ Siberian cold spell that dropped temperatures to as far down as -40° C and buried cities, like Flensburg in one foot of snow, one can see the bridge that is still in tact, yet its northern approach to the arch spans is gone. Demolition has not taken place for it has been stayed pending on a hearing between the group saving the bridge and political representatives of the Ore Mountain district (Erzgebirge) and the German state of Saxony. Three days after posting the first entry, the German version of the online petition was accepted by authorities in Dresden (the state capital) and Aue (the district seat), and we received an invitation to a hearing on this unique structure. But for right now, the old approach is needed for the new approach to the span being built directly to the east of the new span. The foundations for the pylon are already supplanted in the Zwickau Mulde, and it will be a matter of time before work can commence on building this important piece that will eventually hold the structure. The new span is to be a two-span concrete beam bridge, whose aesthetic value is really compared to a typical American slab span, as seen in one example here. In other words, engineers could have done a better job in designing a bridge that best fits the mountain landscape, which the builders of the Stone Arch Bridge achieved hands down- and within a course of a year on top of that. 🙂
But going to the current theme in the entry: Social networking has played a key role in addressing the issues of concern while attracting scores of people to help in their causes. Since around 2011, many organizations involved in preserving historic bridges have used social networking- such as facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn to attract people from faraway places, many of them with the tools and technology needed to save the structures and repurpose them for recreational use. My first involvement came with the Riverside Bridge in Missouri, where Kris Dyer led in the efforts to attract hundreds of people who were willing to chip money, time and efforts into saving the two-span truss bridge that was a product of the Canton Bridge Company and built in 1909. Myself and a friend of mine from Pittsburgh helped organize the Historic Bridge Weekend Conference using that bridge and another one at Times Beach near St. Louis as centerpieces for bridge preservation that were needed during that time. Riverside Bridge was restored and reopened two years later, while a campaign to repurpose the other bridge is well underway with plans to have the bridge open by 2025.
This led to the idea of building a social network site for the Bockau Arch Bridge (in German: Rechenhausbrücke Aue). The purpose of the website is to share some stories, photos and other facts about the bridge and its Headwaters Tender House and Dam (Rechenhaus), which is now a restaurant, plus provide some updates on the project to save and restore the stone arch bridge, even after the new bridge is open to traffic next year. Basically, to find out how successful the facebook site is, the one question you should ask yourself is can you attract enough likes to make a statement? Even more likes than in a petition? Unlike going door-to-door collecting petitions from neighbors, friends, family members and teachers, a social network, sometimes combined with an online petition, will attract more people from all aspects of the world. And who knows? There may be enough people out there who just might be that savior with some particular power to save the bridge- a politician, preservationist, financial provider, etc.
And therefore, the committee needs your help. Go to the website by clicking on the link below:
Like the site and feel free to help out in saving this bridge. The goal of the page is to get 2000 likes before Easter, plus just as many more (at least) before the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to send a message to Aue, Dresden, Berlin and beyond that we care about this bridge and we want to keep the structure, no matter what costs will incur in doing that, and no matter what events we can put together to raise money to make it happen. An English-speaking online petition is in the works and will be added very soon.
So can you join in the page and like us to follow? We hope so. 🙂
In the next entry, we’ll have a look at the history of the Rechenhaus located next to the bridge. A very unique one indeed. 🙂 Stay tuned!
Nur Heimat gibts nichts- There is never just a homeland.
This is a comment that I remember during my first meeting with the committee to save the Bockau Arch Bridge. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde River six kilometers southwest of Aue in western Saxony, this 146-year old stone arch bridge is one of a few historic landmarks left in the town of Bockau, with a population of 2,100 inhabitants. Closed since the end of August 2017, I had the dubious priviledge of having to make a detour of enternity in order to arrive at our first meeting. This meant going up the hill along Bockau Creek (which the over 800-year old town was named after), then making a pair of sharp curves going right onto a narrow street which leads me out of town, but not onto the bridge that has been blocked off completely. I had to drive another 15 kilometers on a paved road full of sharp curves, potholes, cracks, ice, and wolves roaming about in the forest until I reached the Eibenstock Reservoir. There, I crossed the next bridge and backtracked on the main highway going on the opposite side of the river which led to the meeting place next to the closed bridge- The Rechenhaus Restaurant. There, I was greeted by the welcoming party, despite my 45-minute late arrival, with happiness and joy that an American was coming to help. 🙂
How did I end up here in the first place? And why do a documentary on an old stone arch bridge that no one really knows much about?
I’ve been a bridgehunter since I was five years old, having photographed and written about tens of thousands of bridges in 14 countries (including the US) and 14 states in the US (including my home state of Minnesota). In Germany, I’ve covered all but three of the 16 Bundesländer. This includes Saxony, the region I’ve been touring since 2016. I’ve been running the Chronicles since 2010 and have worked with groups on how to not only restore historic bridges but also how to make them attractive for tourists. This includes my involvement with historic bridge conventions as coordinator and speaker and my use of social media to garnish the attention of interested readers and other history enthusiasts. I’m also a teacher of English, which I’ve been doing since 2001, and since August 2017, I’ve been based full-time at the Saxony Police Academy in Schneeberg, located only three kilometers from the Bockau Bridge. It was also the same time period as my time in Saxony that I’ve done tours in the region, be it in cities like Dresden, Rochlitz, Leipzig, Glauchau, Zwickau, Aue/Schlema and Chemnitz, just to name a few, or along rivers like the Mulde and Elbe. And it was these bridgehunting tours that got the attention of the regional newspapers, namely the Free Press in Chemnitz, whose news reporters at the regional offices led me to this group saving this particular bridge.
And as for the bridge itself, it has more history than many locals know about. It was built in 1872 and is made of natural stone from the Ore Mountains. It took approximately a full year with lots of manpower to construct a multi-span stone arch bridge that connected Bockau with Albernhau and Zschorlau on the opposite side. A local restaurant with the name Rechenhaus was the site of the dam and lock area and headwaters plant, which were built between 1556 and 1559. The flow of the water was ideal for transporting materials downstream, and workers constructed several canals in the mountain region less than 90 years later. Even the headwaters plant was once a mill before it eventually became the barracks for the 11th Panzer Division during World War II and a restaurant after that.
In an attempt to slow down the progress of advancing soldiers from the east, the 11th Panzer Division was ordered to detonate the bridge in April 1945. This is the same tank division of German army that had fought (and lost) at Stalingrad, Kursk and the Battle of the Bulge before retreating towards Germany. Yet a brave unknown soldier did the unthinkable and relocated the bombs to a temporary bridge in Zwickau before blowing that bridge up. This allowed for the Soviets and Americans to easily cross the bridge with their tanks with ease while setting the people free in the process. The 11th Panzer surrendered in Passau on 2 May, 1945, six days before Germany capitulated. The same bridge was used again 23 years later, as soliders from the Warsaw Pact armies, consisiting of mainly Russians and East Germans crossed this bridge enroute to Prague to quash the Spring Movement.
Despite all the history that is involved with this bridge, the historical monument has become a stranger to people in the region, having somewhat lost its face in the eyes of the locals. The mayor of Bockau would like to see the bridge gone once its replacement opens. The same with the state of Saxony and the German government, both are championing a 6.4 million Euro project to replace the old bridge. And despite the petition going around for saving the bridge, a handful of politicians are interested in keeping the bridge for pedestrian use after the new structure is built- most of them with little affiliation with the region with the exception of the Green party.
Our first meeting at the Rechenhaus Restaurant, the historic building which once had the barracks but was originally the headwaters mill and dam complex. The restaurant has a very Erzgebirge taste to it, with a collection of incense men and wood-carved chandeliers. Opposite the entrance to the restaurant is a mahoghany-framed painting of the dam and mill as it was in the 16th century. Some in the committee would like to see it again as a way to slow the flow of the Zwickau Mulde. The river had flooded towns downstream on six different occasions since the bridge was built, with the worst of them having occurred in 1954, 2002 and 2013. Given its proximity to the bridge, many would like to see the restaurant as is. Yet its location during the construction period has become a painful inconvenience. Talking to the restaurant owner, he was deeply disturbed by the construction and stated that since the project started, he had lost up to 60% of his customers. Whether he can compensate once the new span opens remains unclear.
We were nine people minus the restaurant owner, each one with a new set of ideas on how to keep and possibly fix the bridge so that it can be used again. Yet as seen with the American historic bridges, money needs to be there in order for it to happen. Political connections needs to be there in order for it to happen. The same with the use of media and lastly support from the public. As with all historic bridges, the public is the first line of offence in pursuing the preservation of historic bridges. Whether it is with petitions, technical know-how or even planning events, they always have the ideas first before our elected officials. After that, we get the attention out there via social media. Through that and the events, the politicians come in with bills to approve measure to restore the bridge. Then the money comes in to pay for the costs.
For our bridge in Bockau, we’re already at step one, which is public interest. A petition with 1700 signatures was sent to Dresden to the state parliament. Another one is in the works which includes an English version for people to sign and establishing a website. That will be my job for right now- an important one! Speaking from experience with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, gathering interest in social networking will make waves and influence the thinking of the higher-ups of politics and business. Once that is established and we have the English version to submit to Dresden, the next plan is to meet with officials in Dresden to discuss the situation and ways to make the historic pedestrian crossing a reality. A big plus is the fact that the bridge and the mill area are historic lanbdmarks which make it impossible to tear down unless ordered by the federal government. How that works will come in a later article. Then with the connections and planning will be the events. This is where the tough part comes in. How to make this bridge attractive to tourists of all age? We’ve looked at drawing contests, concerts and the like. But what else could be do there? And how can we raise money for the project? This is independent on any funding available for rehabilitating the bridge, which is scarce at the moment, but the search continues.
It’s a battle that one can lose but it’s better to die trying than to sit and do nothing. The mentality has increased in the US over the past decade, yet Germany does have a lot of pride in its history and culture, too much of it to just sit and do nothing.
And with that, I must set to work. I have my expertise to use and share, while others are garnering some more support from locals and interested people in the project. Therefore, what are we waiting for? Get to work!
More on my involvement in the preservation project to come. Stay tuned! 🙂
HAZELGREEN/ ST. LOUIS- In connection with the recent pull-out of Workin Bridges from the Gasconade Bridge Project, members of the Group, now known as the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians, have been Meeting to come up with plans to save the Bridge itself but on a small scale. As mentioned in a release on Monday, the withdrawl of the Grinnell-based organization owned by Julie Bowers was due to a combination of lack of concept in restoring the multiple span through truss Bridge, built at the same time of the Establishment of the mother road Route 66 between Chicago, but also some restoration and funding techniques that were considered questionable. After the meeting of 12 February, members have agreed to continue on with their own concept and have drawn out guidelines as to how to save the bridge without all the hassle. As mentioned in a conversation with Rich Dinkela, the motivational factor presented by Workin Bridges was (and still is) the catalyst to continuing the strive to preserve a pure treasure like the Gasconade. Yet as seen in the stories and some literature written about the Mother Road and its crossings, despite many artefacts having been abandoned or replaced in the name of progress, one cannot save everything, just those that are considered attachments to the communities and friends of Route 66. And those that can be saved like the Gasconade and other bridges are best done in small steps and on a tiny scale, sometimes at low costs.
Here is the Press Release made by the Guardians. You can visit their Facebook page entitled The Rte. 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians. You can follow their page as they will be providing updates on fundraising and preservation plans:
The Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians (Guardians) have been working hard to raise awareness of the potential fate of the Bridge since MoDot closed it to traffic in December 2014. Our efforts during the past 3 plus years resulted in a “stay of execution” for the Bridge and brought a company, Workin’ Bridges into the picture. After 5 months of their own efforts however, they have backed out of the project. The Guardians met again Feb 11, 2018, to discuss new ideas for bringing life back into the rescue effort.
We will be working hard in the coming months to raise the money necessary to save our Bridge. 1. We need to finance an engineering assessment of the condition of the bridge and obtain an estimate of costs required to make the bridge safe – perhaps for bicycle and or light traffic. Anticipated cost of survey $8,000-$10,000. 2. We need to create a persona associated with the Bridge so that it becomes a travel destination point 3. We need to figure out how we can create a situation so that the Bridge can help pay for its costs (insurance & continued upkeep). 4. We’d like to find an organization, private or governmental, that’s willing to take ownership of the Bridge. We believe it has much potential.
The Guardians core group is 8 people strong – but we believe we have hundreds – no thousands – of folks that are ready and willing to help us. We (Guardians) pledge that we will be transparent to the public with what we do, what our goals are, how much money we raise, and how it’s spent. We need your help in spreading the word, and we need your help in raising the funds needed, and we will need whatever time and talent you can donate to the cause of saving this grand old lady – The Gasconade River Bridge.
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:
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. 🙂