Volunteers dedicated to saving a 90-year-old suspension bridge in Miller County are planning fundraising efforts they hope will lead to the eventual reopening of the bridge.
Members of the "Save the Historical Brumley Swinging Bridge" are scheduled to meet later this month after the group talked with engineers about what it would cost to get the bridge reopened as well as what it would take to preserve the long-term life of the bridge.
In January, at the request of the Miller County Commission, inspectors from the Missouri Department of Transportation inspected the wire-suspension bridge, which reaches into Lake of the Ozarks State Park on the west end and Miller County on the east.
By state statute, MoDOT is required to inspect all bridges in the state whether they are in the state system or not.
Inspectors checked the anchoring system, the cables that come off the bridge and anchor to the ground. The cables are encased in concrete, and the concrete was found to be deteriorating. That caused MoDOT officials to tell the county they should close the bridge.
The Brumley Swinging Bridge, also known as the Grand Auglaize Bridge, was built in 1930 to provide local residents a means to cross the Grand Auglaize Creek due to the construction of the Lake of the Ozarks. The 500-foot-long suspension span was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in October 2020. It is the last original swinging bridge in Missouri to carry vehicular traffic.
In February, the grassroots organization to save the bridge began its work.
"We received a report back in May from the engineering firm Bartlett & West, and we decided what they told us was doable but we'd have to get started with fundraising very soon," group member Jim Bubash said. "We're planning to set up a GoFundMe page, sell T-shirts and do other things to raise money."
Bubash said the engineering report estimated it would cost $150,000 to reopen the bridge. To accomplish the work for the long-term life of the bridge would cost another $600,000.
"Our first focus is to get the bridge reopened," Bubash said. "The work to keep the bridge in good shape for another 90 years would have to be done in phases."
Bubash said the volunteers would like to accomplish fundraising by the end of the summer. If things go well, he said, they could seek bids for the work and start the rehabilitation at the beginning of 2022 in hopes of completing it by the end of the year.
"We've received help from both state Rep. Lisa Thomas, R-Lake Ozark, and Miller County Presiding Commissioner Tom Wright, both of whom have said they're committed to helping us," Bubash said.
Wright earlier said the county had no intentions of tearing the bridge down and hoped if it couldn't reopen the bridge to vehicle traffic, it would be able to make it safe for pedestrians.
"I'm a retired mechanical engineer, and I live in St. Louis," Wright said. "When I first saw this bridge, I fell in love with it. It's different than any other bridge you will see right now. I knew I had to help preserve it."
The monthly meeting of the Save the Historical Brumley Swinging Bridge group will take place at 6 p.m. June 17 at the Cave Pumpkin Patch, 123 Swinging Bridge Road in Brumley.
For more information about the group and its efforts, call 573-369-3107 or visit savethehistoricalbrumleyswingingbridge.com.