The Cedar Creek Bridge — once a quaint structure now modernized — is nestled in the southwest part of Callaway County, just inside the Mark Twain National Forest west of New Bloomfield.
Area residents and numerous officials who all played a role in helping facilitate the project converged Friday morning to mark the opening of the newly constructed bridge that spans Cedar Creek, connecting Callaway and Boone counties.
The crossing — also referred to by locals as the Vaughan Bridge on the Callaway side and the Burnett School Bridge in Boone — was first built in 1910 and ultimately closed in 2016. Construction of the new bridge cost close to $900,000, and was funded mostly by a grant from the Federal Lands Access Program.
The federal program was established in 2015 to improve transportation facilities that provide access to, are adjacent to, or are located inside federal lands. Those standards made Cedar Creek Bridge a prime candidate for funding due to where it sits in Mark Twain National Forest.
Callaway and Boone officials also did their part in providing matching funds for the grant to see the project to its fruition.
"It's been a long road and there's a lot of history to this bridge," Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann told those gathered for Friday's ceremony. "We have rough decisions to make (as county commissioners) and a lot of bridges and a lot of roads (to consider), and this one bridge kept getting pushed off.
"I'm happy we could do this and get it done. Not every project runs as smoothly as this one — everybody wanted to give us the world. It turned out wonderful and it's going to be here a long, long time."
Richard Vaughn, of Fulton, was on hand Friday to see the new version of the bridge. Vaughn had family members — including his great-great-great-grandfather — who lived in the immediate area in the early 1900s and were instrumental in the bridge's genesis.
"They were the ones that petitioned the county (Callaway) and Boone County together to build a bridge across this," Vaughn said as he stood on the new structure. " Cedar Creek, it flows pretty good at times, and my ancestors had land in Boone County and the Callaway County side.
"The families — at times — couldn't get together, so the bridge meant a lot to them back in them days. At that time, there was a mill here, also, and there was another mill that's on down Cedar Creek, and I'm sure the traffic from the Jeff City area — or Holts Summit area — all came through this way to get to the mills.
"This bridge meant a lot back in 1910 to them people."
Vaughn noted the continued importance of the bridge now for those Callaway residents who are employed in Boone County.
"There's lots of traffic that comes through here, just to get to Boone County, because the road going around to get there — from this area — was probably a 15- to 20-mile drive, extra," said Vaughn, "where they can cut through here and be right in Boone County, or be right in Ashland before you knew it."
Art Gloss and his wife, Darlene, moved to the area after he retired 14 years ago as a policeman in Chicago. The couple's house sits on a hill on the Callaway side overlooking the Cedar Creek bridge.
"The old bridge was beautiful, it was rickety and it needed a lot of repair," Art Gloss said. "When driving across it with my truck, it used to shake.
"We love this new bridge, it's really beautiful and we're grateful for all the people who were involved in it."
Gloss added that having the bridge open again makes it more convenient with travel for medical appointments.
"It means a lot because I go to the VA Hospital (in Columbia)," he said. "When the bridge was shut down, it was 10 miles of gravel to get to (Highway) 63 — now it's only seven miles of road to get to 63."
While Vaughn was appreciative of the modern Cedar Creek bridge, the original will always be his favorite.
"It's not the old bridge in looks, but it's definitely a nice bridge — it'll be a big success," Vaughn said. "Oh, I loved it (old bridge), just the structure of it and being of the history, especially since it's our history that helped secure this bridge back then.
"It means a lot to me to at least keep it open and use it."