What was once a simple request of ownership has now become a race against time as Green's Mill Bridge Inc. has received opposing parties in the mix.

What was once a simple request of ownership has now become a race against time as Green’s Mill Bridge Inc. has received opposing parties in the mix.

A public meeting was held Monday night to determine the fate of Green’s Mills Bridge, also known as the J Road Bridge. Green’s Mill Historic Bridge Inc., the group taking precedence over the project, asked the public to attend their next meeting to help develop a consensus on what should be done with the local landmark.

During the meeting, project leader Lonetta Bartell, alongside co-leader Daphne Jefferies,  discussed the various new factors that have sprung up that will make things a bit more tricky. She says that now, two parties have come forward with equal interest in the bridge.

The first group comes from St. Charles county. She says they plans to actually move the bridge to a location within their county. More recently, a second group out of the state of New Mexico also reached out to Bartell to say they were interested in the bridge as well. Bartell was not sure of their intentions with the bridge, saying it could be for use or for scrap.

This leaves the local group with a tough deadline and a challenge ahead. With MoDOT still planning to build a new roadway to replace the bridge, plans need to be made by a party soon. By October 31, the group will need to provide a detailed feasibility study with proof that they will be able to fund the maintenance, liability costs, and general rehabilitation of the bridge for the foreseeable future. If they cannot provide the study or aren't able to showcase financial security, the bridge will be bid to the other groups.

Bartell says the group avoided any government aid for the project in order to avoid slowing the process and “getting wrapped up in the red tape.” Now, since the group became incorporated, she says the group needs as many people on board to help with fundraiser efforts to move forward.

MoDOT will supply demolition costs for the bridge were estimated in March at $180,000. If the group is able to showcase financial stability and take ownership, 80 percent of federal funds that would have gone to demolition would instead be given through labor costs. At the projected cost of $180,000, 80 percent would come to a total of $144,000.

Bartell says they now have plans to add a parking lot on the Macks Creek side of the bridge which would hold 14 cars. This would add an estimated $65,000 onto the total cost of revitalization. She says they also have a number of pedestrian traffic improvements to make it more safe for walking on. This would see the bridge receiving modern walkways and safety measures to make it more friendly to approach on foot. In March, these costs were estimated at $400,000. However, she says the final cost is still to be determined after placing their own designs and factoring insurance.

Bartell says the group has contacted an engineering team out of Rolla, MO that was brought to the site to determine if they would like to participate in further design choices and have accepted the offer.

The goal is to make the bridge a destination spot within the county rather than just a roadway. As an additional income stream, she says they would be willing to host weddings, hold symphony concerts and other events to bring attention to the location. These were among other fundraisers that the group has in mind that would likely make up a majority of bridge maintenance.

”We want more mobility on the bridge,” Bartell said. “We want this to become more of a pedestrian walkway.”

The significance of the bridge lies in its unique construction. The bridge, found between Green Mill Campground and Little Niangua Campground, is one of only four self-anchored suspension bridges in the entire country and the final still standing. With its background as one of Missouri’s most important early highway bridges, the bridge has been ruled eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for engineering as a nationally significant example of a self-anchored suspension bridge.

Bartell announced at Monday’s meeting the inclusion of Dr. Jerry Plunkett, a Missouri historian out of Dixon. He has a PhD from MIT and has spent the majority of his life saving historical landmarks, buildings and other from demolition. He says that his group will be able to provide help along the process and help the group make decisions going forward. He also says they will provide regular donations that will help with upfront costs.

Before the meeting concluded, Bartell allowed the nearly 15 community members present to make a vote as to whether or not the process of purchasing rights to the bridge would be worth the trouble. The group voted to move forward and has officially set the timer on the group’s feasibility study.

Green’s Mill Historic Bridge Inc. will be holding their next meeting on October 17 at 6:00 p.m. in the Camdenton Public Library. They are hoping to see more new faces arrive to help with various aspects of the fundraising efforts. They hope to have a brand new website available for local use by then.

“Let’s see what we can do,” Bartell said. “All we can do is work hard to save a big part of Camden County history. That’s what we are aiming for.”