The Ouachita River Bridge is a steel Parker through truss bridge carrying Arkansas Highway 7 and Arkansas Highway 51 across the Ouachita River in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
We are working to save the Historic Ouachita River Bridge in Arkadelphia as a landmark for future generations to enjoy! Thanks to the help of so many, we were able to get our engineering study!
Spread the Word, Give Your Time, and Please Donate! Even though we can now begin the engineering study, we will still be working towards an amazing trifecta of parks! Your donations will be used to better our community bridge park!
Once our historic structures are lost, they are gone forever and cannot be replaced. “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” John Sawhill (1936-2000).
The Friends of the Historic Ouachita River Bridge at Arkadelphia (FOHORBA) was formed as a non-profit group to assist with saving and preserving the historic Ouachita River bridge in Arkadelphia, which is at risk for demolition after the opening of the new Highway 7/8/51bridge. The group’s goal is to convert the historic bridge into a pedestrian and biking bridge park, which will connect with Arkadelphia’s existing river parks on either side of the bridge, and which in turn connect with Arkadelphia’s sidewalks and trail system.
To accomplish the goal of saving and preserving the historic bridge, the FOHORBA group must raise $10,000 by July 17, 2018 to pay one-half the cost of a Phase 2 Engineering Study. The other one-half of the cost of the engineering study was committed earlier this month by the Ouachita River Commission. No money is being requested from the City. The group understands the City of Arkadelphia has no money to pay for the study and no money to preserve the historic bridge. The needed funds must come from private contributions. It is believed the engineering study will show the historic bridge can be maintained in a safe condition at very low cost based upon a verbal report provided to the City Board earlier this month by engineers who made a preliminary study a few years ago.
As part of the proposal for the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) to transfer ownership of the bridge to the City, it will provide $189,000 in grant funding to maintain and repurpose the bridge for a pedestrian and biking park bridge. No matching funds are required from the City for this federal money, which represents the cost savings of not demolishing the bridge, and given to encourage preservation of historical bridges. This grant money cannot be used to pay for engineering studies and planning purposes, which is why private contributions are needed before the City Board’s meeting on July 17th. If the money is raised, it will take three months to complete the engineering study, and then the City Board will have a month to review the study before voting whether to accept or reject ArDOT’s offer to give the bridge and $189,000 to the City before a December 3, 2018 deadline.
If the engineering study establishes no money will be needed from the City to repurpose and maintain the bridge, then the City Board will have the assurance it needs to accept transfer of ownership. If the City does not accept transfer of ownership of the historic bridge, then ArDOT will tear down and remove the bridge.
Everyone interested in saving the bridge is invited to attend a public meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 28th, in the Board Room at Arkadelphia Town Hall, where more information will be provided about the plans for saving the bridge as part of the City’s park system, and the urgent need for private fundraising. Everyone is also invited to a meeting at noon on July 3rd at Western Sizzlin, in conjunction with a meeting of the Clark County Historical Association.
Contributions to FOHORBA may be delivered to any Southern Bancorp Bank lobby or drive through location, or made online through www.ouachitariverbridge.org, which links to the bridge’s Facebook page and Twitter account for online contributions. For businesses interested in contributing, please send an email to email@example.com or call 870-246-0600 to learn how a historic bridge contribution can promote your business at the same time.
Our historic bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and noted to be in “excellent condition.” The bridge was originally constructed in 1933 across the Caddo River near Caddo Valley and was placed in storage after being removed in the 1950’s. It was rebuilt at its current location over the Ouachita River in 1960. It is categorized as a “drive through Parker Truss two lane bridge of national historical significance.”
Many believe saving our historic bridge will provide a unique “Trifecta of River Parks” for local and regional residents to experience and engage with the river, as well as a unique eco-tourism attraction for visitors that will provide an economic benefit for the area in general and downtown Arkadelphia in particular. Birders will have a close vantage point to observe a colony of swallows nesting under the new bridge and flying around the historic bridge during feeding times, as well as observing other species of birds and wildlife along the river. Repurposing the historic bridge will add another “quality of life” experience for Arkadelphia residents and visitors, as well as preserve our City’s magnificent historic landmark!
FOHORBA asks everyone’s help to “Keep the Ouachita River Bridge above water!” Your children and grandchildren, and their children will thank you for your time and money helping with this worthwhile project!
Photo with permission of Don Chaney