Six apply in Cape county's old bridge giveaway

Monday, August 14, 2006

The applications are in for Cape Girardeau County's bridge giveaway, and commissioners now have to sort through the proposals.

One applicant wants to use the bridge to enhance the surroundings of one of Cape Girardeau's oldest homes. Another wants to move it to a spot near the Castor River in Bollinger County to enhance a campground.

And a third applicant would use the bridge to enhance an Internet site about historic bridges by using the rebuilding project as the subject of a feature story.

In all, six applicants have asked for the bridge, the last steel pony truss bridge on a county road. It spans Horrell Creek on County Road 439 just north of Route FF. J.W. Githens Co. of Poplar Bluff, Mo., won a contract last month to remove the 49-foot-long, 12-foot-wide bridge and build a new one in its place.

A decision must be made soon, because Githens has already staked out the construction zone. Commissioners announced in July that they would give the bridge to someone who would reuse it in a suitable location. The bridge should at least be visible to the public and, if possible, available for the public to use, they said.

No firm date, however, has been set for a decision.

Carl Armstrong, owner of the Armstrong-Ramsey House between Silver Springs Road and Mount Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau, wants the bridge to enhance the historic site. The home incorporates a two-story log house built in 1795 by settler Andrew Ramsey.

"It is probably the oldest building still standing between Ste. Genevieve and Memphis," Armstrong said.

The bridge would replace a culvert and earthen berm where a stream and nearby spring feed a pond, Armstrong said. "We are proposing to dig out the culvert so the pond that the spring goes into would go up under the bridge," Armstrong said.

The bridge and home would be available for tours by history groups and others who request it, Armstrong told commissioners in his letter.

Another proposal came from Jen Seivers, owner of several lots in Grandview Acres of Highway 25 south of Jackson. The bridge would cross a creek to make the lots available for development, she said.

Seivers isn't sure whether the bridge will fit the location, but she wanted to put her application in before the Aug. 1 deadline to remain in the running. "It would be visible from the road but on private property," she said.

James Baughn, webmaster for the Southeast Missourian newspaper, also runs an Internet Web site dedicated to historic bridges. He wants to move the bridge, which was installed at its current location in the 1930s or 1940s but was moved from another location, to a family farm on County Road 607.

As the bridge is rebuilt, Baughn told commissioners in a letter, he would document each step of the process as feature for the Web site.

The Web site was launched, Baughn said, because too many old bridges were being torn down and sold for scrap. The Web site documents bridges and efforts to preserve them.

"We photograph them if we can't save them," he said. "Now we have a chance to actually salvage one."

The campground applicant is Arrowhead Campground in western Bollinger County. The bridge would be used to replace a low-water crossing of a creek on the property, campground president Chuck Miller said.

The campground was purchased a few years ago by a group of 15 investors, he said. "We're getting it back in good shape, with a new well and power lines from Highway 34," he said. "The bridge would be part of ongoing improvements."

The campground is open year-round, he said, and has many special events at Memorial Day, Fourth of July and for music shows. The campground has several permanent residents, among them construction workers who have offered to help rebuild the bridge.

"We've got an on-site labor force and you don't have to do nothing but feed them dinner and buy them a few beer afterward," Miller said.

Other applicants, who could not be reached for comment, include Beth Essner, who wrote to the commission that she would move the bridge a short distance to land her family owns along County Road 439.

She grew up playing on the bridge, Essner wrote. "I wish to pass on the same piece of my history to my children," she wrote.

The other applicant is Ted Elliott, owner of Rocky Holler, where families can fish, ride ponies and operators of the "Rocky Holler Haunted Hayrides" in October of each year.

Elliott wrote that he would place the bridge at the rear portion of the property where it borders on Hubbell Creek on U.S. 61.

Obtaining the bridge would be a plum for his Web site, Baughn said, but he's generally pleased that there has been so much interest.

"The fact that six people are interested is fantastic," he said. "So often, things like this are just ignored, and now we have a race for it."

335-6611, extension 126

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