'Save the Swinging Bridges' group aims to preserve Brumley history

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BRUMLEY - What started as a Facebook group has grown to a community effort to save a piece of Brumley history.

The "Save the Historical Brumley Swinging Bridges" Facebook group formed in July, but met for its first meeting September 19. The group's goal is to complete repairs needed in order to keep the bridge open for traffic, while avoiding the modernization and replacements similar bridges in Missouri have undergone.

The worry of the community stems from a MODOT inspection completed last year. The bridge was downgraded from a five-ton rating to a three-ton rating. The Miller County Commission is ultimately responsible for updates to the bridge. However, on off-years of MODOT bridge inspections, a private consultant is supposed to inspect the bridge and update the commission with any issues they see.

The president of Save the Historical Brumley Bridge, Mark Beabout, said the group is just really at this point in time trying to figure out ways to work with the county to keep the bridge from being shut down.

"The county has told us they do not have the money or resources to build a new bridge at this time," Beabout said.

The Miller County Clerk posted this to their Facebook page in August:

Many residents in the area have lived near the bridge all of their life, and use it for both travel and recreational activities. Jeff Wilson has lived just six miles from the bridge for 65 years and uses it to travel into Brumley daily.

"I'd have to go clear out to A-Road, all the way around halfway to Richland and back down around," Wilson said. "You're talking, I think, 27 miles versus six." 

Wilson said the bridge is in better shape now than it has ever been after a new deck was added to the bridge last year. He said minimal changes have been made to the bridge since its construction in 1931, and believes there is a sensible way to come up with the solution needed to keep the bridge up to code.

"If you imagine when they built that thing, think of all the equipment they didn't have then," Wilson said. "It had to have been built just 90 percent manpower, and it just looks like they could come up with a common sense way of fixing it with the equipment and everything we have now."

It's not just people in the area using the bridge, however, according to Wilson.

"Just the other day, a car stopped me. It was from Maryland," Wilson said. "He wanted to know where he could camp at. I've seen them from there, clear to California and everywhere in between."

Brumley resident, Josh Pryor, described the bridge as more of a sentimental piece to the community.

"It's just kind of small town America," Pryor said. "It's our claim to fame."

Pryor grew up just two miles from the bridge and he views it not only as a piece of his childhood, but his kids' childhoods as well. They go camping and swimming around the bridge and are always sure to take friends from out of town to the historical piece of their small town.

Pryor wants the bridge to also stay in good enough condition to use it for travel, but he said his biggest concern now is that it's at least around in its original condition for more years to come.