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Downtown bridge, Trail of Tears could be 'Tourist Bonanza' for Waynesville

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Nov. 1, 2011) — A downtown bridge over the Roubidoux Creek near the Trail of Tears site could be a “tourist bonanza” for Waynesville, according to Councilwoman Luge Hardman.

During Tuesday evening’s economic development committee meeting, Hardman said she recently met with National Park Service officials regarding the Trail of Tears Cherokee encampment in Waynesville. While the original intent of the meeting was to help city officials learn how to put up signage telling visitors more about the forced removal of the Cherokee tribe from Georgia and the Carolinas into what is now Oklahoma, Hardman said she received more advice than she planned.

“They keep telling me all this they want to help us with the signage; of course, the signage for the interpretive walking trail is $50,000 to $60,000, just for the signage,” Hardman said. “They have a special company out of Texas; they would come here, they would research it, they would write the text, they would take the pictures. But he kept saying, ‘You guys have a tourist bonanza here.’”

Hardman said the site will be ready next year before the signs are done, but those who visit the encampment will come down Superior Road from Laughlin Park to the soccer fields by North Street and see sidewalks leading to a concrete pad with three pedestals and benches.

“The pedestals will tell the story of the Cherokee encampment here in Waynesville,” Hardman said. “The other part of this story involves the signage… we would start it up here at the gazebo and bring it down and tell the story of the Cherokee Indians crossing at the old bridge that used to be off North Street.”

Hardman said she’s recently found two pictures at Lone Oak Printing, owned by Tim Berrier, of the pre-1928 bridge that crossed Roubidoux Creek at North Street before the current Route 66 bridge was built.

“You’re going to be amazed at one of these pictures,” Hardman said. “It shows the old original bridge (at) North Street; it shows the old buildings that, of course, are now the pawn shop area. It’s just an unreal picture; you’re going to be really fascinated by it.”

While the Route 66 Bridge needs work, Missouri Department of Transportation officials say it’s salvageable, Hardman said.

“The rebar and the sidewalk are worn out,” Hardman said. “We want that bridge to stay, and when we started that enhancement project, we approached MoDOT and said, ‘Is this bridge sound?’ and we got the word back, ‘Yes it’s sound.’ Now a lot of cosmetic things are wrong with it, and one of them is the sidewalk and the curbing.”

Getting advice from historic preservation personnel was helpful on the cosmetic work, Hardman said.

“I said, ‘Can’t you just go in there and take that out?’” Hardman said. “The Park Service man said, ‘No! No!’ There are special people who will literally rebuild that to look just like it did in 1928.”

Responding to questions from committee members, Hardman noted that she had met with some of the senior National Park Service personnel responsible for historical and cultural activities.

“I was thrilled to death,” Hardman said. “These are not just fly-by-night people; they are people who know how to get this stuff done and I was very excited.”

The signage will include the Laughlin Park name, Hardman said.

“I did tell the National Park Service that we wanted it to say Laughlin Park… of course, they assured me that anything we want on that sign will be there,” Hardman said.

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