|The Gasconade River Bridge courtesy|
In mid December of this year, the State of Missouri closed the historic Gasconade River Bridge that carried Route 66 traffic from the infancy of that highway to the modern era. Now this scenic bridge faces a very uncertain future. In addition, its closure means that historic and scenic sections of Route 66 are relegated to dead end corridors similar to that running past John’s Modern Cabins to Arlington.
Rich Dinkela has launched a multifaceted grassroots initiative to have the bridge renovated rather than replaced. Full details about the bridge, video, an on line petition, and contact information for the individuals that need to hear from you are found on Rich’s website, Hooked on Route 66.
Even though this bridge is in Missouri, its loss or preservation will have tremendous ramifications for the entire Route community. The essence of the Route 66 experience is the opportunity to do more than travel from point “a” to point “b”, it is the opportunity to travel through time. It is a multifaceted sensory experience filled with tangible links to more than a century of societal evolution.
Key to maintaining that experience is preservation of the highways unique infrastructure, especially its picturesque bridges. Few aspects of the highway itself provide such a sense of context or history, even fewer provide the photographic backdrop for images that seem to transcend time.
In recent years we have irretrievably lost Route 66 bridges that were engineering and architectural masterpieces in Oklahoma, Los Angeles, and numerous other locations. With each loss a hole is ripped in the Route 66 tapestry.
I lament what we have lost and feel a sense of melancholy for what we stand to loose. However, this initiative provides more than a glimmer of hope as the groundswell of support for the preservation of this bridge provides clear indication that along Route 66, the sense of community and community purpose is growing exponentially.
Historian and author Jim Ross has been at the forefront of focusing attentions on the roads historic bridges, almost all of which are endangered. I for one am eagerly anticipating the forthcoming publication of his book that will document the history of every bridge on historic Route 66.
In addition to generating an awareness of how endangered the roads bridges are, fostering a sense of community, and laying a foundation for effective grassroots initiatives in the future, the social media commentary about preservation of the Gasconade River Bridge has revealed two items that need to be discussed.
The first of these is what exactly the steering committee facilitated by the World Monuments Fund and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is. In a nut shell, the steering committee is little more than the framers for a proposed organization that, if successfully sold to the Route 66 community, will be a professionally led entity comprised of elected representatives.
The second item revealed in the initiative to save this bridge is the need for a reincarnation of the original U.S. Highway 66 Association. Take just a moment to imagine the possibilities.
What if we were faced with the loss of two, or three bridges simultaneously? What if an organization was in place to magnify a grassroots initiative such as Rich’s with an established network for email blasts, a networked website, and an updated list of contacts for the submission of letters and petitions?
What it this organization had initiated inclusion of the bridges in the National Register of Historic Places? What if this organization could assist in the coordinated development of rallies, distribution and creation of press releases, and in person presentation of petitions? What if this entity had an established network of business owners, international Route 66 associations, state and city tourism offices, politicians, highway department officials, and a promotional arm?
Such an organization would not only be able to contribute to the success of grassroots initiatives, it would also be able to bolster the work of vital organizations such as the Historic Route 66 Federation, Route 66 Alliance, Route 66 Chamber of Commerce, Route 66 associations, and local tourism offices, and it would also be able to provide businesses with promotional assistance, develop educational programs, and meet the needs of media.
It all sounds rather ambitious but the time has come to dream big. An organization such as this came to life in 1927 during an era of Model T Fords, dirt roads, and horse drawn milk wagons. What can we create in an era of conference calls, instant international social media, and Ipads?
Those folks back in 1927 were trying to market a road and build the network needed to make it a vital artery of commerce. All we have to do is strive to ensure that the essence of the road, and the things that make it the most famous highway in the world are not lost.
Now, a few of the end of the year notes. Next week we set off on our epic Route 66 adventure to the Netherlands. In addition to the meet and greet at De Prael in Amsterdam (details at the top of this blog), I will be manning the booth for U.S. Bikers and U.S.A. Holidays that will be sharing space with the Dutch Route 66 Association at Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, at 2:30 in the afternoon, I will also be making special presentations about Route 66.
To our European friends and neighbors, I hope to see you at one or both events. Please bring your books as it would be my pleasure to add a signature.
To close this out I thought a bit of a travel advisory would be in order. We have a winter storm moving in this evening and the forecast is for a couple inches of snow at around 2,000 feet. Here in Kingman at 3,300 feet, there may be up to six inches of snow. If so, to the east you can add at least an inch for every 1,000 foot climb in elevation. So, if you can, avoid travel in the area for a day or two.