- ENTRY TO THE BRIDGE: From the west, which will have to be substantially changed if the bridge is to be preserved.
A fledgling group working to save the White River Bridge at Clarendon, scheduled to be demolished when a new bridge opens in the fall, has created a website (whiteriverbridge.org) and a biker's-view video of travel on the bridge to stir up interest in the cause. Besides creating a safe, scenic pedestrian/biking bridge high above the White and over an oxbow lake, the bikeway is seen as a potential economic boon to Clarendon and other small towns that would be along what cyclists hope will one day be U.S. Bike Route 80 from Little Rock to the Harahan Bridge in Memphis. The city of Clarendon and Monroe County support the idea to preserve the bridge but do not have the budgets to take possession of it from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, according to Porter Briggs, vice president of Friends of the Historic White River Bridge, so the group is creating a proposal for private and foundation support. That support will have to cover the expense of building a new entrance to the bridge from the west side, which is in the White River National Wildlife Refuge, to meet refuge demands. Briggs, a preservationist more than cyclist, said his passion to protect the bridge was heightened when he realized what it could do to bring tourist dollars to the area. The Coast Guard has agreed to waive its rule that the bridge be removed within 90 days of the opening of the new bridge, which will give the AHTD time to "be a good neighbor" to those seeking to preserve the bridge, AHTD spokesman Danny Straessle said. Learn about the history of the bridge, built in 1931 and one of only two remaining double cantilever steel truss bridges in Arkansas, and the potential economic impact of saving it at the website. You can see the new route of the bridge at idrivearkansas.com. The new bridge will carry U.S. Hwy. 79 south of Clarendon; the current route enters the town.
- WHEN THE BRIDGE WAS NEW: The double cantilever bridge was built in 1931.
- BIKING HIGH: A still from the video made by the group working to save the White River Bridge shows the treetop level route the bridge would offer hikers and bikers.