Sunday, December 13, 2009
When you first approach Mooringsport, Louisiana, from the north, you round a curve and all of a sudden here’s this imposing steel structure, which almost looks like a drawbridge. You think “almost” because the shape and structure are correct, but the huge counterweights and the motor-control house you normally expect to see on an older drawbridge are conspicuously absent. The truth is, the whole thing was nearly absent from anyone’s view, but for the hue and cry of good Louisiana folks who had a better idea.
The bridge, now known officially as “The Historic Caddo Lake Drawbridge At Mooringsport LA,” was built in 1914 to replace a ferry operating in the same location. It was operated until the mid-1940s when officials at Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) determined that there was no longer a need for the bridge to open for passing boat traffic. Not long thereafter, crews from the department dropped the counterweights from the bridge straight down into the lake. Would that I could have been there to see the splash.
Though the words “fishing pier” never showed up in our research, you can bet the farm that the subject was in the hearts and minds of many bridge preservation supporters.
The bridge is not now nor ever was wide enough to accommodate modern vehicular traffic patterns. In the late seventies the narrowing condition of the roadway was finally deemed to be less than tolerable by those charged with determining whether or not traffic conditions are tolerable. Then, nearly a decade later, the DOTD and its counterpart set of initials at the federal level, the FHA (Federal Highway Administration), came up with the money for a replacement bridge — a decision, one would presume, that required some serious cogitation.
Replacement being the operative word, the plans called for a new bridge fifty feet east of the old bridge — and gasp! the plans also called for demolition of the old bridge once the new structure was successfully carrying traffic.
At this point, a group of local citizens said something to the effect of, “Whoa Nelly Bozo, we believe that bridge should be preserved as a pedestrian walkway and perhaps a tourist attraction” — or words to that effect. Although the word “fishing” does not show up in any historical research, you can bet the farm that more than one of these good-citizen preservationists saw buckets of fresh fish in the backs of their Louisiana minds.
Once the movement gained some momentum, local, state, and federal officials decided it was a good idea and joined the cause. As a result, funds earmarked for destroying the bridge were one-eightied to preserve it. Eventually, the bridge became property of Caddo Parish — for the uninitiated, what most other states call a “county” is called a “Parish” in Louisiana — and eventually was included in the National Register of Historic places.
That bridge is just downright cool. And the only reason the bridge is there to be cool is because a small group of determined people decided that’s the way it should be. They wanted it badly enough to evangelize the cause and convince others of the righteousness of their ideas. While all of this occurred twenty or so years ago, I do believe this sort of thing can happen again, maybe in your hometown, if a special landmark or similar community treasure comes under threat of the demolitionist’s hammer.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.