Rev Up the Chainsaws

This was the “after” photo of one of my favorite pictures. You can see the “before” photo on my 2010 Earth Day page. It was taken in Athens, Ohio, but there will be plenty of opportunities to duplicate it along Bloomfield Road in the coming months.

150 trees to die

I haven’t heard from any of my readers who attended the meeting yet, but The Missourian had a Scott Moyers story about the Bloomfield Road public hearing posted before I went to bed.

City Engineer Kelly Green said the city has taken measures to minimize the loss of trees, but that some would have to come down to widen the road from 22 to 28 feet. “Some” is as many as 150.

Bottom line: the project will start in June and dozens of trees have already been marked for removal.

All about safety, city says

City officials, Moyers wrote, say widening Bloomfield is crucial for making safer a road that is the site of several accidents a year and even a occasional road fatality.

I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but I put “Bloomfield Road” into The Missourian’s search box. Not a single accident popped up. There were plenty of  Police Reports listing people who LIVED on Bloomfield Road who had been picked up for driving drunk or stealing things, but no accidents.

How does it compare to other roads?

I’m sure there are some. What I’d like to see is how Bloomfield Road’s accident rate compares to other streets with similar traffic volumes. What makes Bloomfield Road “crucial?”

I’m going to bet that if I HAD turned up accident reports, they wouldn’t have been “accidents.” I bet they would have been “crashes,” attributable to speeding or unsafe driving, things that can be prevented by law enforcement, not road widening. All road widening will do will be to increase speeds and traffic volume.

Roundabouts and other traffic calming devices constrict traffic to slow it down. Isn’t that what Bloomfield Road does naturally?

What do we do now?

It’s too late to save the section from the city to Benton Rd. That train has left the station.

Project Manager David Whitaker said that the next phase, which will take out what I think is the prettiest section – from Benton Road to White Oaks Lane – is starting with the concept that is similar to the work this summer, but that input from Thursday’s meeting could change the nature of the work in 2013.

Engineer Green said that nothing was set in stone for the next phase and they would compile the input from Thursday night’s meeting.

Here’s your civics class homework assignment

There’s your homework assignment: stay on top of the next phase. Make sure your input is “compiled” and not composted.

I’ll try to keep on eye on it, but I’m 1,100 miles away. You are the folks who live there and will have to show up for meetings.

Other road “improvement” stories

The Bloomfield Road spring

Mount Tabor Park at most scenic crossroad site in area

Mount Auburn Road started as a scenic drive

Snake Hill

Have we lost Bloomfield Road?


Doggett and Mount Tabor Parks

Cape County was given land for two parks with the stipulation that they be developed or the land would revert to the donors. Here’s the partial story of those two parks, both which have links to the Bloomfield Road controversy.

An Apr. 27, 1953, Missourian story that said that “Dr. Sylvester Doggett, who nearly 10 years ago gave the Cape Special Road District a provisional deed for a large tract of land at the intersection of Broadway and Highway No. 61 in Cape Girardeau for city park purposes, told The Missourian Saturday that he had engaged a law firm to bring a suit to have the deed annulled so the property would revert to him because the terms of the contract had not been complied with.

“Dr. Doggett said he had prepared the tract for park purposes before offering it to the township. Drainage and sewer service, electrical facilities and water connections had all been furnished and 40 papershell pecan trees were planted… The township was to develop the tract into a recreation or social park, like the Dennis Scivally Park out on Cape Rock Drive… Very little of anything has been done and the 10-year period is now drawing to a close, so he will go to court to get his land back.

“The tract faces 400 feet on Broadway and is 287 feet wide by 400 feet deep, thus making it total up to over three acres, ample space for such purposes with parking space for 30 or more cars. It is a valuable piece of property, Dr. Doggett told The Missourian, worth at least $40,000 and ‘if the township doesn’t expect to use it, I want it back so it can be used for other purposes.

“A granite marker with the name ‘Doggett Park’ facing Broadway is seen on the property.

Doggett Park possible armory site

Three years earlier, an Oct. 25, 1950 story said negotiations were underway by the city and representatives of the military affairs committee of the Chamber of Commerce for an approximate three-acre tract of land on Broadway at Doggett Park as the site of a proposed federal armory building.

The armory was eventually built at the corner of Independence and East Rodney.

Mount Tabor Park gift Ramsey, Giboney families

Doggett Park figures into another park gift that was lost.

A front page July 8, 1961, story told of the gift of 10.23 acres of picturesque wooded land at the southeast corner of Benton and Bloomfield Roads by the descendents of the Ramsey and Giboney families to the Cape Special Road District. The gift was for the specific purpose of developing the acreage into a public park.

“Funds are available for the park development program, Lindsay W. Simmons, chairman, said, from the proceeds of sale of the Doggett Park tract on west Broadway to the Masonic Lodge.

“The acreage given by the Ramsey-Giboney descendents fronts 813 feet on Bloomfield Road and 750 feet on Benton Road. It is all in woods and is part of the most scenic crossroads site in this entire area.”

Most scenic crossroads in area

“Trees leading to the intersection of the two roads form a bower over the road, giving it deep shade and an idyllic appearance to the motorist. Even on the hottest of days the drive through the intersection is cool, adding to the physical beauty of the spot.

“The 10.23 acres is said to be the site of Mount Tabor School, which historians say was the first English school west of the Mississippi River. It was established in 1799 by Andrew Ramsey, the first American to settle in the Spanish dominions. He and his family came in that year from Harper’s Ferry., Va., his lands adjoining those of Louis Lorimier, commandant of the Cape Girardeau territory. He was followed by Alexander Giboney and others to form the first purely American colony west of the Mississippi.

“A stipulation provides if the road district is abolished the County County must preserve the property for public use and if it fails to do so the ground will revert to family heirs.”

What happened to the park?

Feb. 16, 1971 – The Cape County Court formally approved abandonment of a section of Benton Hill Road.

May 5, 1978 – Cape Girardeau County Court has ordered all county parks closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in initial effort to curb problems resulting from night-time drinking parties being attended by teenagers; action was taken after Sheriff James J. Below brought to court’s attention party last weekend in Mount Tabor Park which was attended by about 300 people, many of whom were under age of 21.

Aug. 1, 1983 – Cape County Court today agreed to vacate the Benton Hill Road near the former Mount Tabor Park. The park, located just off Bloomfield Road, west of Cape Girardeau, reverted to private ownership earlier this year after the Cape Special Road District said it no longer wanted to maintain the park. Now that the property is no longer a park, County Court Presiding Judge Gene Huckstep said the court agreed to vacate the the county road which leads to the property.

Questions about the parks

It’s possible that these questions were answered in stories I didn’t find, but it’s worth posing them in case someone else knows.

  • How was it possible to sell the land to the Masons if the deed required it to be made into a park?
  • How much money was made off the property sale and how much of it went to the Cape Special Road District for the development of Mount Tabor Park?
  • Was all of the money spent on the park or was it diverted to other projects?
  • Why the rush to abandon Mount Tabor? Surely it couldn’t have been because of teenage keg parties. They weren’t exclusive to Mount Tabor.
  • A 1966 survey of the long-term recreational needs of Cape County said that picnicking was the third most popular recreational activity in the county (after swimming and pleasure driving). Five hundred picnic sites were needed in 1966 and it was projected that 1,000 would be needed by 1985. Mount Tabor was listed as a park that had picnic facilities. If the need was increasing, why give up the park?

Bloomfield Road a “scenic drive”

The 1966 Cape County Parks and Recreation Commission survey listed pleasure driving as the second most popular recreation in Cape County. Lee Enright, the landscape architect quoted in the story, said that at least 35 miles of scenic drives should be available to the public by 1985. He classified Bloomfield Road and Cape Rock Drive as existing scenic drives, totaling 13 miles. He also listed the Ten Mile Rose Garden between Cape and Jackson as a possibility.

I find it ironic that the Ten Mile Rose Garden was wiped out when Highway 61 was widened and that the trees that “form a bower over the road giving it deep shade and idyllic appearance” could disappear when Bloomfield Road is “improved.”

See yesterday’s story about a planning meeting being held May26.

Have We Lost Bloomfield Road?

One of the last scenic roads leading into Cape Girardeau is Bloomfield Rd. When I wrote about a spring alongside the road near Elmwood Apr. 2, 2010, and ran this photo, I wrote under it, “This view, by the way, is the reason Bloomfield Road SHOULDN’T be widened. There should be some roads left that let us appreciate what the area was like before it became paved over. If the road isn’t fast enough for you, then don’t move out there. Ditto Route W. OK, rant off.”

Public Meeting May 26

I happened to see this “Bloomfield Road Improvement Meeting May 26” announcement on the city’s website. Now, when I see something labeled “Improvement,” that’s a signal that it’s a done deal, even without the meeting.

For some of us, widening the road, increasing the speed limits and cutting down the canopy of trees that makes Bloomfield Road special isn’t an “improvement.”

Here’s the full announcement:

Phases 4 and 5 of the Bloomfield Road Improvement Project will be discussed during a public meeting on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m., at the Osage Centre.

Information will be provided regarding traffic control during phase 4. Affected areas include Bloomfield Road between Stonebridge Drive to just south of the Benton Hill Road intersection. Phase 4 construction is slated to begin mid-June, with utility relocation occurring prior.

Citizen input is requested regarding phase 5, which includes Bloomfield Road west of the Benton Hill Road intersection to White Oaks Lane.

How long before it is Mount Auburnized?

When Mount Auburn Road was proposed to link Hopper and Gordonville Roads in 1961, it was billed as “scenic route west of Cape.” Before long, it turned into a four-lane expressway that gobbled up the front yards of the homes along it.

What happens to the Bloomfield Spring?

My great-great grandmother, my grandmother and my mother all stopped for water at this spring on their treks from Advance to Cape to go shopping. Some of those trips were made by wagon.

This spring, which refreshed travelers for more than a century is right off the roadway. Will it be lost to future generations?

How about the Elmwood Gates?

The old gates that guard the entrance to Elmwood aren’t far off the roadway. Will they get taken out this time or will they be around until the road is four-laned?

Where is Dennis Scivally?

When the first road in Cape County was paved in 1920 – the stretch of South Sprigg called Tollgate Hill – Dennis Scivally, the engineer in charge of the project said, “Several walnut trees had to be cut down, but care will be taken to cut down no trees not absolutely necessary to remove. It is the plan to retain the beauties of the road as well as make it good for traveling over. Along most of the distance are now growing beautiful trees. These will be cared for, underbrush and weeds will be removed, painted signs along the way will be tabooed, as well as signs tacked to trees.”

Where is our Dennis Scivally today?

What can we do?

If I was in Cape, I’d show up at the meeting on May 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Osage Center. I’m sure it’ll be an exercise in futility, but I’d feel better for having given it a try.

Just do me a favor: if and when they DO chop down the trees and destroy the spirit of the road forever, put in bike lanes. We might as well win SOMETHING out of it.


The Spring on Bloomfield Road

When we were driving past the castle called Elmwood, my mother wondered if a spring she remembered as a little girl was still there.

I had heard her talk about it years and years ago, so I thought I knew approximately where it was alongside Bloomfield Rd. I parked my van at Kensington Lane and walked north, back toward the curve in the road leading to Cape.

This view, by the way, is the reason Bloomfield Rd. SHOULDN’T be widened. There should be some roads left that let us appreciate what the area was like before it became paved over. If the road isn’t fast enough for you, then don’t move out there. Ditto Route W. OK, rant off.

Just south of the big tree that’s shown in the photo above and on the west side of the road, I saw a small rivulet of water running toward what used to be the Elmwood estate.

Water boils mark the spring

I didn’t see a pipe running under the road that would account for the stream. When I looked at the pool through a polarizing filter on my camera, I could see beneath the reflections on the water’s surface.

Those black circles mark where water is boiling up out of the bottom of the pool.

I had found my Mother’s spring

“My Grandmother – my Mother’s Mother – Mary Adkins, would always buy some kind of pan at the dime store every time we came to Cape from Advance. On the way back, we’d stop at that spring and dip out a drink in the new pan. She died in 1938, when she was 75 years old, so that was quite a few years ago,” my mother, Mary Welch Steinhoff, recalled.

“I don’t remember what kind of car we had – it was before Model T days. Mother (Elsie Welch) would usually come along; Grandmother would drive. Dad (Roy Welch) never liked to drive.”

Did you stop for a drink on the way TO Cape?

“No, we didn’t have a pan on the way TO Cape.”

“Didn’t you ever think about bringing one along?” I asked?

“No, I guess she wanted a new pan and this was always an excuse to get one.”

View of spring looking south

That white fence marks what used to be the Elmwood property. I don’t know if this is in the 900 acres that were sold for the Dalhousie Golf Club or if it’s part of the 70 acres retained by the estate.

Map showing spring and Elmwood

View Bloomfield Spring & Elmwood in a larger map