After reassembly, the Springfield-Des Arc Bridge is now looking like a bridge again.
The structure, believed to be the oldest highway bridge in Arkansas, was previously located near Cadron Creek but has been relocated to Beaverfork Lake to be enjoyed again by residents of Faulkner County and tourists who visit after years of erosion and vandalism.
The 142-year-old, 146-feet iron bowstring truss bridge will serve as a pedestrian and bicyclist bridge connecting the lake and will have trails from the parking lots on both sides leading up to it.
City of Conway Chief of Staff Jack Bell said the iron workers went home for the Fourth of July holiday but should return next week to finish the job.
He said workers still need to put the bridge on the lake and put on the deck.
“It will take a while but they’re making progress,” Bell said. “It looks like a bridge now. It’s going to be beautiful.”
To add to the project, one thing they wanted to do was paint the rails, which would cost around $15,000. That money wasn’t in the budget until Workin’ Bridges Executive Director Julie Bowers helped to raise $5,000 and the Faulkner County Historical Society came up with the rest.
“That was really good,” Bell said. “It will look better with the railings painted.”
Faulkner County Historical Society President Rebekah Bilderback said the group had money set aside for historical projects such as the bridge. The gray paint for the rails, she said, will add an old-looking new distinction to the structure.
“I think it’s going to be a great location,” she said. “I am so excited [and] I’m excited for everybody to get to use it.”
Bilderback said since raising the money, the group has received more donations. She said anyone who has given or pledged money will have their name painted onto the rails.
“I just hope everyone gets the chance to enjoy it,” she said.
When the bridge is finished, Bell said, the Conway Parks and Recreation Department will decide how to landscape around it.
“We haven’t gotten that far,” Bell said.
As for the community, he said there’s been a positive response to the whole process.
“[There] really seems to be a lot of interest and a lot of excitement around the bridge,” Bell said. “It’s going to be pretty unique.”
He said old bridges often tend to fade away, but he is glad they are able to save this one.
The Springfield-Des Arc Bridge was built by the King Bridge Manufacturing and Iron Works of Cleveland, Ohio. Installation was completed in 1874 and went out of commission in 1991, when a new bypass was constructed.
The city of Conway and the Faulkner County Historical Society worked with Workin’ Bridges, a nonprofit out of Iowa that dedicates itself to restoring bridges across the county, to make this project happen.
The bridge is listed on the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’s 2015 list of Arkansas’s Most Endangered Places.
(Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)