“Save the bridge! Save the bridge!” chanted a crowd gathered Tuesday afternoon in front of the Copper County Courthouse in Boonville. Longtime residents of Boonville, families, and even Boonville Mayor Danielle Blanck’s dog, Heidi, came to show support to keep the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge part of Boonville.
“It is a part of history. It is one of a kind. There are not very many bridges like it in this country,” said Andy Melendez, a Boonville resident who attended the rally.
The rally was another step in the long fight by residents to have their voices heard after the Missouri Department of Natural Resources relinquished rights to the bridge to Union Pacific last month. Union Pacific plans to remove sections of the bridge, built in 1932, and use them on an existing bridge in Osage.
On Monday night, the Boonville City Council passed a resolution that would allow the city more time to establish the bridge as a historic landmark.
The resolution would require Union Pacific to obtain a permit from the city of Boonville before beginning demolition of the bridge.
Boonville has never dealt with a situation like this before, Boonville City Administrator Selby Myers said.
“This is a path we haven’t walked,” he said.
Sarah Gallagher, Boonville economic development director, said passing the resolution is just a first step in the process.
Phil Rumbaoa, a physician in Boonville, brought his three children, Michaela, 10, Ben, 9, and Gabe, 5, out for the rally.
“It is an opportunity for the community to show support for a symbol of our community,” Rumbaoa said.
Rumbaoa, who grew up and attended college in southern California, said he was involved in activism in the 1970s and wanted to pass it on to his kids.
“We are able to save this bridge. I want to show my kids to support the cause,” he said.
Cheryl Lixey, Save the Bridge steering committee member, and her son Adam, 7, have been fighting to save the bridge for several months. In March, Adam collected more than 200 signatures from his classmates at Central Elementary School.
“We are fighting Union Pacific now,” Lixey said. “We will not give up.”
Mark Davis, spokesman for Union Pacific, said there is no set timeline for when removal of the bridge will begin, but the ball has begun rolling.
“We are in the process of permitting (with the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard) on the move,” Davis said. “We still need those sections, naturally, for the bridge in Osage further down stream.”