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GRINNELL, IOWA– Workin’ Bridges visited Fort Scott, Kansas and Faulkner County, Arkansas on April 6, 7 & 8, at the request of the Bourbon County Commissioners / the Fort Scott Bourbon County Riverfront Authority and Judge Preston Scroggin of Arkansas. We were asked to address the future of the historic truss bridges in their locations, and to give them an estimate for the cost of repair and suggestions on how to find money to fund these projects.
The Long Shoals Bridge, a 1902 Parker truss is at risk from tree roots growing through the stone abutments, tree trunks tangled in the eyebars and vines entwined around the verticals. There are also three floor beams missing, actually torn from the bottom of the riveted verticals. Workin’ Bridges has worked with Nels Raynor of BACH Steel, an historic truss bridge expert, who noted that the top chord was in great condition, no holes or section loss apparent, beams were missing, and there was significant pack rust on the portals, but overall, the bridge is worth saving. The portals need some work”, Raynor said, “but they are so massive and decorative, that’s the part people will remember.”
Workin’ Bridges has compiled an assessment for the Long Shoals Bridge, which included an estimate for the bridge lift and disassembly for the move to Fort Scott, and for the restoration and reset over the Marmaton River in Riverfront Park for use as a pedestrian bridge. Workin’ Bridges was also asked to assess the Military Bridge, three span King Iron Bridge Co., bowstrings built in the early 1880’s. The bridge was closed in 1969 and in 1974 the planks burned off. This bridge will be planked for use on the trail that loops 2.5 miles out of Fort Scott and can be utilized by pedestrians and equestrians. The Missouri Pacific Railroad Bridge at 2nd Street in Fort Scott was also assessed for trail use. The commissioners and visionaries for Riverfront Park were thrilled that they might be able to use another piece of the counties history in the park and the time was right for looking at a solution to keep the Long Shoals Bridge out of the river, where the county would still be responsible for the expense of removal.
The 1871 King Iron Bowstring Bridge, the Springfield, is twelve years older than the bowstring we are restoring now. There are significant differences, and what we look at as a fix in our bridge from the earlier model. That is the interesting part for me, to see the craftsman’s record on putting up a bridge in the 19th century as they were just beginning to design them. This bridge deserves to be saved after 140 years, it’s not like these concrete bridges we are making that just don’t stand up to time.
Workin’ Bridges is trying to educate the engineers, elected officials and board members with decision making abilities that iron and steel truss bridges can work in today’s times, cost effectively. “We keep blaming the bridges that can’t handle the farm equipment, but I don’t see the roads holding up very well either. And the equipment is so big that it gets stuck in the fields, and then the farmers tile the fields so eliminate that problem, and the runoff is too great, they don’t filter out the pollutants and the rivers flood the towns downstream. It’s time to stop that cycle”, stated Julie Bowers, founder of Workin’ Bridges.
Workin’ Bridges is a part of The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), a non-profit with the goal of restoring the McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County Iowa. “I needed Workin’ Bridges last year”, Bowers said.,“in time, to keep our King bowstring bridge from the river and restore it. Instead, too much bureaucratic time taken resulted in the bridge being swept downstream in an unusual flood in August of 2010. It cost us a lot of time and money. BACH Steel and lessons in historic metal have made me a believer in these bridges, and Workin’ Bridges is about saving other folks the money and devastation that is involved in pulling a bridge from the river. All the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past year and a half is helping others’ decision making. In this economy where budgets and charitable giving is harder to find, we are willing to work for bridge repair and try to make up our money that way.” Donations are accepted for bridge repair and may be mailed to NSRGA, PO Box 332, Grinnell, IA 50112. or at www.skunkriverbridge.org.