OZARK, Mo — Its owners are trying to find a suitable new home for an old piece of history.
The Riverside Bridge along the Finley River in Ozark was constructed in 1909.
The original Riverside Bridge used to sit in front of the historic Ozark Mill, along Finley River, but was moved downstream, closed off, and replaced by a new bridge.
It is currently owned by Ozark Special Road District.. One of its commissioners, John Elkins, says a few things will be included when proposals are submitted.
“We are taking bids for the ownership of that bridge which includes the demolition and removal costs. We’ll evaluate their plans and proposals. There will be a committee that takes a look at their proposals and determines which would be the best home for the bridge,” says Elkins.
So you may wonder, who would want to buy an old bridge?
“So we had two serious parties,” Elkins says.
The first would be a suburb of Kansas City, the city of Riverside, Missouri.
Noel Challis is the Capital Projects and Parks Manager of Riverside, and says they are seeking to make improvements to a park.
“First of all it was Riverside Bridge. What a coincidence right?” Challis says. “We have a trail that we are wanting to connect to our major park in the city. Let’s see what MODOT has available as far as bridges that are historic that we could consider using.”
Riverside found out they are not the only ones interested. Their biggest competition is a titan of the Ozarks: Bass Pro Shops Owner Johnny Morris.
“We figured at that time that our chances were a lot less than his, and that he would want to use the bridge more locally,” says Challis.
Bass Pro Communication Director Jack Wlezien says the Riverside Bridge fits the description that Johnny Morris seeks when beginning a project.
“Every Johnny Morris project shares two common themes here in the Ozarks. The first is celebrating the heritage in the Ozarks, and the second is connecting people to nature.”
Wlezien says Morris is interested in seeing the bridge stay local.
“Something like the riverside bridge has a great history, a great story behind it. The ability to connect people to the flowing waters of the Finley River potentially is really exciting and intriguing to us,” says Wlezien
The purchase of the Riverside Bridge would coincide with another project Morris is working on: the reconstruction of the Ozark Mill.
“With the goal of restoring that facility and celebrating the Finley River, the nature and history that mill represents as an amenity as well as its history with the city of Ozark,” Wlezien says.
The bridge could soon be part of that project.
Ozark Special Road District will decide who gets the bridge in the two-to-four weeks, and will replace it with a new one in a little over a year.
The city of Ozark and Christian County have agreed to pitch in funds for improvements once it is built.
If you would like to learn about the Johnny Morris’ Ozark Mill project, we covered that story here.