CLARENDON, Ark. (KTHV) - This time next year, a historic bridge in Clarendon will be gone unless a group can save it. The White River Bridge is a historic landmark, but in 2010 an inspection deemed it no longer structurally sound. So a new bridge will soon replace it and the fate of the White River Bridge remains unclear.
“We would feel a unique sense of loss in our community, our culture,” said Jeremiah Moore who is fighting to save the bridge.
The Cache River Refuge has an agreement with the highway department to tear down the 2.3 mile long bridge once the new one opens. The new bridge that will connect Highway 79 is expected to open in about six weeks.
A non-profit, Friends of the Big White River Bridge along with local and some state leaders have another plan. They hope to repurpose the bridge as a pedestrian and cycling bridge.
“This would be the longest pedestrian walkway bicycle-way in the world; not just in Arkansas, in the world,” said Clarendon Mayor Jim Stinson.
The city wants to raise $8 million to maintain the bridge. They already have commitments from local and national bicycle and conservation agencies.
“It’s not going to hurt anything. We want to save this to help Clarendon,” said Stinson.
Those who want to save it say it would help the city bring in tourists and ultimately they’d like the bridge to serve as a link in a cycling route from Little Rock to Memphis.
“We’re a small town, let’s face the fact; we’re not going to be a big business here in town, but eco-tourism, right here. We have it all. This is a gem,” said Stinson.
The City of Clarendon has filed a lawsuit against the highway department to stop the demolition. If they can’t stop the current plan, the bridge could be torn down as early as six months following the opening of the new bridge.