Devils Elbow Bridge decorated for holidays
It's a first as far as Robbie Bradford can remember—and others agree.
It's been a long time since the Devil's Elbow Bridge, located on the Historic Route 66 Highway, has looked this good and its never been decorated for Christmas.
"We just wanted to decorate the bridge to bring people down to see it," said Bradford who works at the neighboring bar and barbecue, The Elbow Inn. The inn sits next to the bridge on Teardrop Road.
"We took donations from local citizens, bought the lights, ribbon and bows. The only thing left to do was decide the power source," Bradford said.
And with a community effort involving a contingent from the inn and other local residents, The Devil's Elbow Bridge has been spruced up with garland and lights for the season. The lights are powered from both sides of the Big Piney River: By the Elbow Inn and local resident Bill Debo.
The bridge crosses just north of the treacherous river bend and local namesake Devils Elbow. The oxbow was well-known up and down the river, Debo said, back in the days when railroad ties were floated down river for construction purposes.
The bridge was once part of the Historic Route 66. Visitors from across the globe seek out the bridge during their treks across country.
With time, as all bridges obsolesce, it fell into a state of delinquency and disrepair. MoDOT imposed weight restrictions and the community of Devils Elbow feared the bridge would close.
An effort to restore the historic bridge, which was built in 1923, began more than 10 years ago and culminated in a grand re-opening of the bridge June 7 of this year.
"We've been fighting to get this bridge repaired for years," Debo said. "And they did a fine job. It's like a brand new bridge."
The $1.3 million restoration project was funded through several sources. According to an earlier Daily Guide report, the funding for the project was found last year when the Pulaski County Commission was able to combine Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) and MoDOT’s Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds with a mixture of grant monies awarded. MoDOT BRO and STP funds are covering 80 percent of the project, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) along with a small grant from the National Parks Service and a local match from Pulaski County make up the remaining project funding.
Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) helped prepare the CDBG, STP and National Park Service grant applications and is serving as the administrator for the $250,000 CDBG grant awarded.
Debo said the decorating effort, which took place during the weekend of December 13th, wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of his grandson Blayne Kelley, who is a student at Waynesville High School. Bradford agreed.
"We were all quite impressed by the young man," Bradford said, who said he bravely scaled portions of the structure to hang lights and handmade wreaths.
Debo and Bradford expect the lighting to be a yearly tradition, and funds are already being collected to support additional decorating efforts next year. There is hope of a corporate sponsor.
"There is so much negative going on in the world right now," Bradford said, "and this lets us usher in the holiday spirit and truly celebrate the season. It builds community."
The lights are expected to stay up through the Sunday following the New Years Eve holiday.