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Crews raise the 112-year-old Riverside Bridge onto new trusses near the Ozark Mill, just downstream from where it originally crossed the Finley River.
SBJ photo by Emily Cole
Crews raise the 112-year-old Riverside Bridge onto new trusses near the Ozark Mill, just downstream from where it originally crossed the Finley River.

Ozark’s Riverside Bridge returns to span Finley River

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Finley Farms took a step into its future by embracing its past as the historic Riverside Bridge was erected once again over the Finley River this morning.

As invited guests stood on the McCracken Road Bridge, crews from Nabholz Construction Corp. and Great River Engineering Inc. hoisted the bridge, which was built in 1909, onto new trusses just downstream from its original location.

The bridge will allow visitors to cross the Finley River on foot, said Dayle Duggins, marketing manager for Finley Farms. An official opening of the bridge has not been set. The bridge also will be available to rent for private events, Duggins said.

Johnny Morris’ Finley Farms is a redevelopment of the historic Ozark Mill property. Work is underway on the restoration of the mill and the addition of a new restaurant. The development also includes the Ozark Farmers Market and The Workshop, a craft making space and coffee shop.

Plans also are underway to connect Springfield to Ozark via the Ozark Greenways trail system with the 7.5-mile Chadwick Flyer greenway trail. The Chadwick Flyer will end near downtown Ozark and connect to the existing Finley River Trail, which leads into Finley Farms and the Riverside Bridge.

The 274-foot Riverside Bridge served as the Chadwick Flyer railroad crossing for Finley River until it was deemed too small for traffic demands in 1924. The bridge was moved 1.5 miles upstream, where it remained until it was closed for repairs in 2010. It was permanently closed in 2015 after sustaining flood damage, according to a news release from Finley Farms.

Efforts to save the historic bridge from demolition began in 2010 with the establishment of the grassroots Save Riverside Bridge Initiative.

To stop demolition of the bridge in 2010, the initiative secured the bridge onto the National Historic Register. In 2014, the initiative received the Preserve Missouri Award from Missouri Preservation, a statewide nonprofit preservation organization.

Kris Dyer, founder and director of the initiative, fought back emotion this morning as she spoke ahead of the raising of the bridge.

“I was told many times that saving the Riverside Bridge was a lost cause, but we were determined to save this beautiful historic bridge for future generations, and today we’re seeing that before our eyes,” Dyer said.

Steve Childers, Ozark city administrator, said the process of saving the bridge was long and complicated.

“Something like this starts with a vision,” Childers said. “It starts with a big picture and you sort of work backwards from that.”

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