Bloomfield Road Opens

The paper said Bloomfield Road was going to open today. TV news said it was going to open, but the signs said “Local Traffic Only” when we pulled up there this afternoon. Figuring that Mother was local and I had Florida tags and could claim I was lost, we kept driving. Before long, though, it was obvious that the road was blocked, so I grabbed my camera and started hoofing it. (Just as I was starting to leave, “Ryan” (no last name given) started removing the barricades from the road.) Click on any photo to make it larger.

I gotta tell you I really didn’t want to do this story. I’ve written about how I feel about the loss of an historic scenic road too many times. It’s a battle lost. I was going to make a strong case for trying to save the last segment, but I’ll show you tomorrow why I’m not even sure that battle’s worth wasting energy on. By the way, I refer to Phases 1, 2 and 3: the section in front of Campster School (1); this section ending at the Benton Hills intersection (2), and the final section, from the Benton Hill intersection to Hwy 74 (3). News stories refer to phases up to 5, but they’re dealing in more detail than I am. Sorry for any confusion.

How does it look?

Well, if you hadn’t seen it before, you’d think it looks pretty good. If you’re looking for the trees you knew and loved, they’re pretty much gone. “It won’t take long for the trees to fill back in,” a workman told me.

“Trees that are two or three feet around?”

“Well, uh, no, THOSE trees won’t come back quickly.”

Did they “minimize” tree loss?

On July 21, I wrote this:

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 minimize the loss of trees, but that some would have to come down in order to widen the road.

I’m going to say that ALL of the trees that appeared to be close to the right of way line were cut down except for the two next to the portable toilet. I might give the credit for saving three, but I think the one if the foreground was a little bit outside the line. If the city engineer or anyone else involved with the project would like to show me any stealth trees I missed, I’ll be around until the end of the week.

Any good news?

The project DID result in the construction of a nice, hilly curvy bike / ped path. The only problem is that it starts and stops without connecting to anything. The kinds of folks who find trail riding appealing aren’t going to brave traffic on Bloomfield Road to get there on their bikes.

How fast will traffic move?

The speed limit on the new section is 35 mph, the same as the old road. When I commented to my workman friend that one of the problems with the old road was that the 35 mph limit wasn’t enforced and that cars were moving at 45 or 50, he just sort of snorted and said, “at least.” So, how fast do you think they’ll go on a wider, straighter road? I’d love to rent a radar gun and log the average speeds once the road is fully open. Better yet, I’d love to sit out there with a speed cop who needs to make a quota.

Note those trees on the right side of the road? How long will it be before a speeder hits one of those and the outcry is to cut them “for safety?” And, if Mount Auburn Road is any indication – it was originally billed as a scenic drive – we can anticipate a push to make it four lanes within the decade.

Large Wooded Homesites

After all, those people who moved out to the country to enjoy their “large wooded homesites” and golf communities can’t be delayed a few minutes to appreciate the nature enjoyed by generations of the rest of us.

What about the final phase?

When I wrote about the project in July, I was hoping that it would be possible to rally enough support to see that the beauty of the final section of Bloomfield Road was preserved. I’ll post photos tomorrow to show why it may not be worth the energy and shoe leather to do it. I’ll also show the one thing on the final phase stretch that SHOULD be preserved for historic reasons.

Here are other stories about road “improvements”

Photo gallery of Bloomfield Road

Here are more photos of the new section of Bloomfield Road. Click on any photo 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.