People planning to go to Saturday's 11th annual Kids Fishing Day on Saturday, and any other activities at Kellogg Lake Park for the rest of the summer will have to drive a little further to get to one of Carthage's most popular destinations.

People planning to go to Saturday's 11th annual Kids Fishing Day on Saturday, and any other activities at Kellogg Lake Park for the rest of the summer will have to drive a little further to get to one of Carthage's most popular destinations.

The bridge carrying Missouri Highway 96 over Spring River at Kellogg Lake closed today and will remain closed likely until sometime in November, forcing drivers to find alternatives to get to the places east of town, including Kellogg Lake Park.

The bridge was closed Tuesday morning. The official detour takes traffic going east, and coming into Carthage on Central Avenue, south on Garrison Avenue to Fairview Avenue, then east about 10 miles to Missouri Highway 37.

MoDOT officials said they had to detour traffic to the south instead of the much shorter route on North Garrison Avenue to County Route V, then east, because the North Garrison Street bridges are only rated at nine tons and can't handle big trucks.

Local traffic in cars can still take County Route V, but some businesses are concerned about the official detour and how it might divert Route 66 travelers who are not familiar with the local roads.


One big event

The closing was earlier than expected and took organizers of the popular Kids Fishing Day by surprise.

MoDOT Project Engineer Greg Chapman said the contractor, Hartman Construction, Springfield, had planned to start the project in mid-June, but plans changed and they moved the start date up by two weeks.

Jim Crocker, a member of the Kellogg Lake Committee and organizer of Kids Fishing Day, said the committee would work with local businesses and try to put out signs directing travelers to the V Highway detour.

“We didn't know until this week that it would be closed before Kids Fishing Day,” Crocker said on Thursday. “I'm not sure at this point what we'll do other than try to spread the word.”


Business impact

While Kids Fishing Day is a one-day event attracting thousands to the park, business owners in Carthage are concerned about the official detour's affect on the thousands of tourists, many from overseas, who travel Route 66 each year.

MoDOT officials said signing one detour for cars and light vehicles and a second for large trucks isn't feasible and only causes confusion, but Debye Harvey, owner of the newly re-opened Boots Motel, said she wishes state officials had considered some kind of alternative.

“This is certainly going to be an issue, not only for us, but for all businesses on the north side of Carthage,” Harvey said. “The businesses on the Square, the businesses on Central, they could all be hurt by this. If they had just said this detour is just for trucks over nine tons, I don't know why that should be a problem.”

Tommy Pike, president of the Missouri Route 66 Association, said the businesses along the route usually try to let travelers know when there are detours. They also try to tell travelers the best ways to stay as close to the original route as possible while getting around detours.

He said the Association doesn't really have any other way of reaching travelers other than through word of mouth.

Harvey said she wishes the Association would consider having MoDOT add signs marking County Route V as one of the alternative Route 66 paths.

MoDOT said the Missouri Route 66 Association is the group it uses to tell it where to place those signs.

Michelle Hansford, with the Powers Museum, has researched maps and found that Route 66 came into Carthage on Route V and Highway 71 for several years.

Jim O'Haro, owner and operator of the White Rose Winery, said he's also concerned about the impact of the bridge closing, but there isn't much anyone can do about it.

“So you just, as the old church song says, smile and shrug your shoulders and go on,” O'Haro said. “When you have an opportunity you like to talk to people who are on the board and ask why did you do this this way? Did you think about these other things. Most of the Department of Transportation people think about the route, they've got to take people here and bypass this and I don't think they pay much attention to how they get there.”


Recreation in Carthage

Chapman, with MoDOT, said the construction crews will have to keep the public at least 50 feet from the bridge for safety's sake. That means closing at least part of gravel beach and a popular stretch of the Spring River to swimming, fishing, boating and other recreational activities.

“We do have safety concerns while they are working,” Chapman said. “We don't want anyone under the bridge or around the construction site for safety's sake.”

Chapman said MoDOT has talked to the city about closing the gate on the old Route 66 road in Kellogg Lake Park to vehicle traffic. He said construction crews will also likely install orange temporary fences to keep people away from the bridge area.

He said he didn't know how much of the gravel beach downstream from the low-water dam might be closed off, but crews will be assessing it as they start the project.

Nicole Lawson, Carthage, said her family swims and fishes at the beach almost daily in the summer.

She and her family were at the bridge on Tuesday, the last day before the bridge was closed when she talked to The Carthage Press.

“Instead of going to a pool we just come down here with the kids,” Lawson said. “We can swim, we can fish, we can get a whole lot done. I'd really be upset if they close this down because it's just down the road from our house.”