City “Minimizes” Tree Loss on Bloomfield Road

This afternoon, Mother, Advance reporter Madeline DeJournett and her blackberry pie-baking fiance, J.D. Braswell, and I met with Advance historian Paul Corbin for three hours of history, gossip and tales about that small town.

During the course of the conversation, the topic of trips to Cape came up. Mother mentioned that her grandmother would always buy a pot when she shopped in Cape so that they could stop for a drink of water at the spring on Bloomfield Road..

Paul said his mother told him about going there on their shopping trips to Cape.”It took one whole day to get from Greenbrier (west of Advance) to the spring. They stayed all night at that spring. They took potatoes to sell and sorghum molasses, probably chickens and everything. They’d take some hay to put in the wagon – they’d sleep in the wagon.” The next day they’d go on into Cape to do their business and return to the spring to sleep that night. “It took three days to make the trip.” Paul is 97, and Mother will be 90 this fall.

I’ve been avoiding going down Bloomfield Road. Not because of the inconvenience, but because I didn’t want to see what had happened to this historic and scenic highway. It was late in the afternoon, so I decided to take the plunge. After writing about the construction plans, I felt like I should see how bad it was.

Tree loss to be minimized

Remember back in May when the city held a meeting to talk about the $1.25 million road-widening project? City officials said that as many as 150 trees would have to be taken down in order to widen the road from 22 feet to 28 feet. City Engineer Kelly Green was quoted by Scott Moyers as saying that the city has taken measures to mimimize the loss of trees, but that some would have to come down in order to widen the road.

Maybe they are just cutting saplings

The loss of a few saplings can’t be THAT bad. Surely they’ll spare the grand old trees that have been providing travelers shade since the horse and wagon days, right?

Big trees are cut, too

In order to get an idea how large some of the trees were, I put a dollar bill on some of the stumps. A dollar bill is exactly six inches wide. Based on that, this tree had to have been close to 30 inches across. That tree was probably a good size when the Corbins and the Welches were camping and drinking from the spring just up the road over a century ago.

They are ALL cut

In fact, it looks to me like every tree inside the right of way on the west side of Bloomfield Road is slated for removal or has already been cut. The only shade on that side is what’s provided by trees that are on private property.

Why is this important?

We’ve lost this stretch of road. These trees won’t be replaced in our lifetimes, our children’s lifetimes nor our grandchildren’s lifetimes. They’re gone and they ain’t coming back.

Moyer’s story went on to say, “And the loss of trees may not end there. While no specifics have been planned for the next phase, if it’s similar to this summer’s work, more trees will come down in two years. Project manager David Whitaker said the city is starting with the concept that the next phase will be similar to the work this summer, but added that input from the meeting Thursday could change the nature of the work in 2013.”

Make your voices heard

If you want to save what I think is the most unique section of the road, from what used to be Mount Tabor Park to Hwy 74, you had better start gearing up now. Watch the paper for notices of meetings and GO to those meetings to let the officials know that clear cutting the last section of roadway is not acceptable.

Do you want this or another Mount Auburn Road?

Stopping or modifying the last phase is going to be tough because the city is going to drag out the “safety” argument, saying that it’s dangerous to have a widened road feeding into a narrow one.

To that, I say “balderdash.” If the old Bloomfield Road was unsafe, it was because the speed laws weren’t enforced. Generations of drivers managed to navigate that road. Wider roads simply breed higher speeds and more traffic, which calls for more wider roads.

Alternative routes exist

There are alternative routes for drivers who feel the need to speed instead of appreciating the quiet, cool beauty of an historic roadway.

I want my grandkids to be able to show their grandkids where their great-great-great-great-great grandparents once camped when it took three days to make a 60-mile round trip.

Photo Gallery

Here’s a photo gallery that shows just how well city officials preserved the trees along Bloomfield Road. Keep them in mind when you start hearing talk about planning of the last phase. It may already be too late. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

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.


City Manager Paul Frederick

An estimated 400 Cape residents met the city’s first city manager and his family at a reception Feb. 10, 1966. In this photo, which ran on the front page of The Missourian, the caption read (paraphrased), City Manager Paul Frederick greets Mrs. Arthur W. Thilenius, while the Fredericks’ son, Jon, Mrs. Frederick and the Fredericks’ younger daughter, Mary look on. The Fredericks’ older daughter, Pauline, is attending college in North Dakota and was unable to attend the reception. Mayor Charles Hood is at right.

(Sorry, Jon, for getting you with your eyes closed. Following in Frony’s footsteps, I only shot three frames at the event and you were cropped out of the other two.)

The Frederick family came from Minot, N.D.  He served until 1970, when he resigned and was replaced by W.G. Lawley of Camden, Ark.