The future remains unknown for a well-known, historic bridge in Joplin. City workers feel the bridge, called low water bridge, needs to be replaced for various reasons, including tree branches and limbs create an unnecessary dam at the bridge during high waters. City workers also say more traffic has made the bridge even more outdated.
But a local preservationist group says the city should instead build a new bridge nearby, while keeping the low water bridge intact.
Now, there's new interest in this effort.
When talking of the 97-year-old low water bridge, local historian Rod Harsh says, "That's a good, solid bridge."
Harsh has been on a mission for several months. He's created a website called SaveTheLwb.com. More than 15-hundred people have showed support.
"They love that bridge that much," says Harsh.
Christi Sapp wrote on the petition, "We lost so much of our history due to the tornado. I would hate to see this piece of history lost, also." Kaitlyn Welsh wrote, "I am only 18 years old and I hope to be able to bring my children to see this bridge one day, but that will be impossible if it isn't there anymore." And Shelby Kelley from Branson shared her light-hearted, but probably painful, memory by writing, "I once was attacked by a goose there, and my friends never let me live it down."
"They're very passionate," says Harsh.
The Missouri Preservation organization, based near Jefferson City, compiled a list of historic places statewide in peril. Low water bridge is 11th in that list of 15 others. Harsh hopes this endorsement, so to speak, of the save low water bridge project makes city officials realize even more what's at stake.
Harsh says this unique bridge connects people to nature.
"People will be able to go out and fish and just sit there and watch the water go underneath their feet, and it would be an amenity to the park to have that," says Harsh.
Harsh's mission shows no signs of drifting away anytime soon.
"I feel it's important to me to try to get this organization moving," says Harsh.
Harsh plans on being in front of Joplin's City Council next week to further discuss plans of saving low water bridge.
City officials are waiting on the results of a hydrology study to determine the impact of both removing the low water bridge and replacing it with a new one, or keeping the existing bridge and relocating the new one.
The $3 million project is being funded through bridge replacement funds available from Newton County, and capital improvement sales tax funds through the City of Joplin.
Joplin's city manager says early estimates to keep the low water bridge and build a new bridge would be significantly higher than what the city has budgeted, but city officials are still looking at both options before a decision is made.
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