Members of the Washington Historic Preservation Commission (WHPC) are open to saving the southern pier of the current Missouri River bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced.
In November, the group was asked by the Missouri Highway 47 Bridge Committee for input on saving the pier adjacent to the riverfront trail as a monument to the over 75-year-old span.
The idea, which also included benches and landscaping, was brought up by an engineer during the design phase for the new bridge. A sketch was created at that time.
The parks department was asked to clear brush and study the feasibility of saving the pier.
Darren Dunkle, parks director, told the WHPC that there is plenty of space around the pier, however, the city would need to find out where the right of way is for the nearby railroad tracks.
The bottom of the pier had several spots of graffiti.
Despite the graffiti and proximity to the railroad tracks, Dunkle said he feels something similar to the rendering could be done.
Bob Zick, bridge committee chairman, brought up a concern by Ray Frankenberg that when the river floods, it could deposit logs and debris on the north side of the pier.
Frankenberg said at the last bridge committee meeting that he thinks that the potential for buildup, in addition to ongoing maintenance, is reason enough to not save the pier.
Dunkle said that in his time with the city, flooding hasn’t deposited much debris in the area.
“Any time you have a flood you’re going to have some maintenance and some sediment brought in, but we have that on the trail anyway,” he said.
Dunkle said the proximity to the railroad tracks is the biggest issue, but if fencing were added the hazard would be eliminated.
He added that if the pier were saved and more people visited, there would be less of a chance for more graffiti.
“I think it’s just so isolated now that no one really goes back there and sees it. The more active it is, the less chance of vandalism you will have,” he said.
City Would Bear Cost
The cost of saving any piece of the bridge would fall on the city or county. MoDOT will not pay for movement or reconstruction.
Bridgette Epple, WHPC member, said that the biggest decision is whether or not to keep the pier and that creating the memorial area could be done in the future, once funding is available.
Zick said the bridge committee doesn’t have a strong opinion on saving a piece of the bridge.
Epple said it was a monumental event when the bridge was built and a piece should be saved, as long as it is feasible.
Bryan Bogue, WHPC board chairman, said the drawing is beautiful and there should be something commemorating the bridge.
Darren Lamb, community and economic development director, will contact Union Pacific Railroad about the right of way on the tracks, and whether or not there are any issues they have with making the area an attraction.
Strubberg encouraged the commission members to walk the trail and look at the site before the next meeting.
The decision on whether to try and save the pier will be made at the next meeting, set for Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers.
The city must tell MoDOT its plans on saving any piece of the bridge by June 2014.