Riverside Bridge in Ozark Closed Again

Photo taken in August 2011
Photo taken in August 2011

Flood Damage Prompts Immediate Closure; Replacement being Considered

OZARK/ SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI-  At about this time four years ago, attempts were made to raise funds, sign petitions and collaborate with government authorites to save and repair the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, a 1909 Canton Bridge Company product that has been spanning the Finley River for 106 years, serving as a key crossing to the northwestern part of the city. All these efforts bore fruit as the local road authority allowed for repairs to be made and the bridge to be reopened, all in 2013. These successful attempts garnered state, national and international recognition.

Sadly though, the bridge’s days may be numbered. For the second time in five years, the bridge was closed to all traffic today.  Record setting flooding in the region resulted in much of Ozark and Springfield becoming inundated and bridges being five feet under water. The Riverside Bridge was one of them, as floodwaters washed over the bridge and only the top half of the bridge could be seen. When floodwaters receded, officials from Missouri Department of Transportation inspected the bridge to reveal structural damage to the railings and the lower chords. The bridge will be closed indefinitely until plans are revealed regarding the structure’s future. According to news channels covering the story, it appears that replacement is likely, although both MoDOT and the City of Ozark agree that the historic bridge should be saved, repaired and used again.  The bridge’s closure means it is back to the drawing board for many people who were part of the Save the Riverside Bridge group, led by Kris Dyer, for efforts to save the bridge took 2 years before the city gave the go ahead to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge. With the bridge closed again, the question now has become: “What’s next?”

A video with the interview with the local engineer explains that the repairs are possible but in the long term, replacement may be unavoidable:

Judging by the photos and videos, the damage to the bridge was mainly due to debris slamming into and getting entangled into the bridge. The rest of the structure appears to be in shape. Yet officials would like to see the bridge replaced and the truss bridge relocated. This is in part due to property rights issues around the structure. But suppose instead of replacing the bridge, one can supplant the truss bridge into a concrete bridge, where the trusses lose their function but serve as a decoration, but the concrete bridge would act as the crossing? With several examples existing in places like Indiana and Minnesota, it is an option worth considering. While a new bridge will cost up to $3 million, the cost for such a project will be just as much. Yet one thing is clear, no matter what happens to the bridge, rehabilitating it, replacing it and relocating it, or even placing it onto a concrete bridge, action will be needed to ensure that the next flood will not take out the crossing altogether. That means, a little bit more money will be needed to save the Riverside Bridge.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the latest developments regarding the Riverside Bridge. Click onto the highlighted links to take you to the bridge, its history and the attempts to save it the first time around.

bhc new logo jpeg

Mystery Bridge 41: The Queenpost Truss Bridge over Okabena Creek

Photo taken by Sam and Anna Smith in 2012

Our next Mystery Bridge article takes us back to Jackson County, Minnesota, specifically along Okabena Creek. Flowing west from Heron Lake to Brewster and beyond in Nobles County, the creek was once laden with pony truss bridges, built between 1900 and 1910, some of which were relocated here in the 1930s. The Okabena Creek Bridge near Brewster (known by MnDOT as Bridge L5245) is one of those structures that was built in the early 1900s but relocated here during the Depression era. According to records, the bridge was built in 1905 at an unknown location. It was one of seven Queenpost pony truss bridges built in the county during that time. Characteristics of a Queenpost pony truss bridge are a bridge built with three panels, with the center panel featuring a pair of diagonal beams crossing together, making the letter X. Most of the Queenpost spans are pin-connected, making it easier to disassemble and reassemble wherever needed.  This bridge is unique because it is the oldest remaining bridge of its kind left in the state, according to state historical records. Relocated to its present spot in 1938, this bridge once served a minimum maintenance road known as Township Rd. 187 but now known as 330th Avenue, and despite being closed to traffic since 1990, it can be seen from County Road 18 to the north.

This bridge is mysterious in the way for there are no known facts as to where the bridge was originally built at the time. Even the builder’s date of 1909 is vague, for it was based on the testing of the metal parts of the structure. Yet some of the features of the bridge (in particular, the V-laced endposts) match those of a couple bridges built by the bridge contractors, Raymond and Campbell in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Established in 1874, the bridge building firm was Jackson County’s prime contractor, having George C. Wise as their agent. Over two dozen bridges were built between 1880 and 1915, first by the bridge company, and later through Mr. Wise himself, who had left the bridge company in 1881 to start off his own business.  At least seven of them were located over the West Branch Des Moines River, including the one at Kilen Woods State Park, whose very first structure featured a through truss bridge with similar endposts like this one. More evidence is needed to determine whether this hypothesis is true or not.

According to local newspaper articles, the bridge was relocated here in 1938, most likely as part of the Works Progress Administration project that was undertaken during that time to get as many of the unemployed back into the workplace as possible. Many of these structures were relocated during that time to replace wooden structures that either had worn out or had been washed away by floods. It is possible that a previous structure had taken its place before 5245 came in to replace it. It was one of at least two bridges along Okabena Creek that was relocated to their current spots.  The other was the County Road 9 Bridge north of Okabena, relocated to its current place from Owatonna in 1936 to serve traffic until its replacement in 1998.

At the present time, the bridge near Brewster is still idle, waiting to either be reused as a pedestrian bridge or be part of the nature that is currently taking its course. Talks are still being carried out as to how the bike trail network should be extended from Jackson onwards, including adding one along the Des Moines River. Yet with scarce funding and opposition from county residence, it will take a few years until the project is realized. Yet this bridge would be a key asset, together with Bridge 2628, located three miles east of this one and is scheduled to be replaced in two years’ time. Like Bridge 2628, Bridge 5245 is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique bridge design and age. Yet more information is needed to fill in the missing gaps left in the bridge’s history. This includes:

1. Where and exactly when was the bridge originally built?

2. Who was the bridge contractor?

3. Was there a bridge at this location prior to 1938?

4. Who led the efforts to relocate the bridge here?

Any leads and other information should be sent to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the e-mail address in the informational page About the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  While the bridge was mentioned in the County’s Bridge book, there is still a possibility that more information is out there, which warrants some searching and inquiries, especially if the bridge was to be reused as a bike trail bridge in the near future. The more information for this unique bridge, clearer the information will be regarding its history and significance in the county and the state of Minnesota.

 

Mulberry Creek Bridge near Ford, Kansas

Photo courtesy of Wayne Keller. Used with permission.

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: maandpakeller@cox.net
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
driveway.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the developments with this mystery bridge and would like to thank you for your support.