For decades, perhaps since our city was founded in 1825 — and certainly since railroad tracks were laid alongside the river — Jefferson City residents have longed for a way to have better access to our most beautiful natural resource, the Missouri River.
Within the next couple years, decades of dreaming, planning and fundraising will culminate with the construction of a bridge leading to a riverfront park on Adrian’s Island.
This project is thanks in large part to a generous donation from B.J. DeLong, owner of DeLong’s Inc., a local steel fabrication company.
Of the $3.7 million raised for the $4 million project, $3.2 million came from DeLong.
The money will fund an 826-foot-and-bicycle bridge leading to Adrian’s Island.
Adrian’s Island was created by silt and mud buildup along the river bank, because wing dikes forced the main current toward the middle of the river. It contains 30 acres of forest and wetlands that lie between the Missouri River and Union Pacific Railroad tracks that stretch about 1 mile from the state Capitol to the former Missouri State Penitentiary. About 13 acres of the island would be above the flood elevation and those 13 acres are where the bridge and most of the park would be located.
With more than 92 percent of the funds raised, the city plans to move forward with the project, Mayor Carrie Tergin said.
Jefferson City voters approved setting aside $438,000 in previous sales tax revenue for the bicentennial bridge, but when the ad hoc committee contacted potential donors earlier this year, some donors were concerned about using public funds to construct the bridge. So the committee decided to use only private funds for the project, and the committee hopes the $438,000 will go toward maintenance of the bridge, instead.
The project was a dream of several past leaders/organizations in our community, including DeLong, former first lady Jean Carnahan, The Deborah Cooper Foundation for Riverfront Development and this newspaper’s former owner, Betty Weldon.
It’s been a long road to get to this point, not just due to fundraising, but logistics. Supporters faced roadblocks and logistical nightmares trying to satisfy everyone involved in the project, ranging from the Union Pacific Railroad to regulatory agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers.
But the dream of bringing people closer to the river’s edge is coming closer to reality. We’re thankful to everyone who has taken up the cause.