PARIS, Mo. | Missouri Park Rangers said on Tuesday that they are looking for a trio of people who allegedly vandalized the historic Union Covered Bridge in southwest Monroe County.
The bridge is located about eight miles from Paris.
Corporal Doug Buie, who patrolled the bridge at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, said that three people were caught on surveillance video entering the bridge two hours later at 3:30 p.m. The graffiti was discovered on Jan. 2.
Buie and park staff reviewed surveillance video over the weekend before identifying the suspects.
“The sign right there warns of video surveillance,” Buie said on Tuesday afternoon as he pointed out the graffiti. “Right there, on the sign.”
The graffiti consisted of people's names, and because the cost of repairing the bridge is under $1,000, the crime is a misdemeanor, meaning that punishment could consist of a fine, community service or time in the county jail.
Buie said that while the damage was minimal, and can be repaired, the alleged act strikes a nerve for the community.
“This bridge has been here for almost 150 years. It is special,” he said.
In March 2018, during a refurbishing project, the bridge, which spans the Elk Fork of the Salt River, was damaged during rising waters from days of torrential rains. The state spent more than $700,000 to replace all the boards on the bridge.
Union Covered Bridge is one of four historic bridges that have been maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation since 1967, when control of the structures was placed with the agency by the Missouri Legislature.
Built in 1871, the Union Covered bridge is almost 149 years old. It served as a transportation bridge until 1967, when it was damaged by a heavy vehicle. The bridge was subsequently overhauled and open only for pedestrians as part of the Missouri State Park System. It was again overhauled in 1987.
According to the state, Monroe County ordered that the Union Covered Bridge be constructed following the failure of two uncovered bridges between 1849 and 1870 on what was then the Paris-to-Fayette road. It was built on a budget of $5,000 – about $100,000 today.
It is the only covered bridge left in Missouri representing the Burr-arch truss system, named for creator Theodore Burr. Burr had built so many bridges using that design that he is called by many the father of American bridge building. The other remaining covered bridges in Missouri used the Howe-truss design.
The timbers in Union Covered Bridge were fashioned from local oak and fastened together largely with treenails or trunnels, with a few bolts and nails added for strength. The bridge is 120 feet long, 17.5 feet wide and has an entrance of 12 feet.
Anyone with information is asked to call Buie at (573) 565-3440.