Repairs To Preserve Historic Davies Bridge At Petit Jean State Park Are Completed
Article follows the photos:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEBridge Spanning Cedar Creek Is One of Only Eight Masonry Arch Bridges Remaining in Arkansas and the Only One Featuring Finished Rather Than Rusticated Stone (Morrilton)
— For over 70 years, vehicles have crossed Cedar Creek at Petit Jean State Park on the beautiful arched bridge constructed of native stone in 1934 as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project that formed the core of Arkansas’s first state park. And, over the many decades, swimmers, picnickers, and hikers have enjoyed looking up at the bridge from below. Photographs of the historic bridge span the decades, too. The bridge has always been one of the iconic architectural features at Arkansas’s first state park. According to State Parks Director Greg Butts, works to repair and preserve this architectural treasure have just been completed. Repairs began in September 2006 and were completed on January 24 and the bridge was reopened to traffic. The renovation totaled $586,610 funded by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council.
Originally referred to as the Cedar Creek Bridge, it was rededicated as the Davies Bridge in October 1999 to honor Samuel G. Davies and his son Ladd Davies, the father and son who were responsible for the design and construction of the bridge. A crew of approximately 15 or 20 men constructed the bridge from sandstone blocks quarried from Petit Jean Mountain. In 1988, the bridge was added to the Historic American Engineering Record to recognize its significance as one of only eight masonry arch bridges left in Arkansas and the only one to incorporate finished, rather than rusticated, stone.
In 1932, Samuel G. Davies, a graduate of the University of Arkansas and a civil engineer, was hired by the National Park Service to serve as project superintendent for the development of Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas’s first state park. In 1937, Davies became the first director of Arkansas State Parks, a position he held until 1943.
His son Ladd Davies worked on the Petit Jean project for two years and designed the Cedar Creek Bridge. A student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville at the time, Ladd went on to earn a Master’s degree in Sanitary Engineering from Harvard University and later served as director of the Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology (today’s Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) from 1962 to 1976.
The Davies family legacy continues to be connected with Arkansas’s state parks system. Ladd Davies’ son Richard W. Davies followed in his grandfather’s footsteps serving as the director of Arkansas State Parks from 1976 to 1990. In 1990, he was appointed executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, a position which he continues to hold today.
Richard W. Davies recalls his father telling many stories of the time he worked on the Petit Jean project serving under his father as the landscape foreman for the project. In that role, Ladd Davies was responsible for surveying the park boundaries, laying out the park roads, and designing the bridge that now bears the family’s name. Ladd Davies recalled using a railroad engineer’s handbook to calculate the required depth of the bridge’s keystone (22 inches). The bridge’s deck length is 60 feet. The arch measures 20 feet long and 10 feet high.
The bridge served park visitors and residents of Petit Jean Mountain for over 70 years with little need for maintenance or repairs. However, in the mid 1990s park managers noticed evidence of a serious problem caused by years of traffic. The downstream facing spandrel wall of the bridge had begun to bow outward as a result of years of use by heavy vehicles. The weight of vehicles crossing the bridge had squeezed the fill material located between the spandrel walls like toothpaste, forcing the downstream facing wall outward.
Arkansas State Parks hired McLaughlin Engineering, Inc. of Little Rock to serve as the renovation design consultant to produce the design for the repair and preservation of this historic treasure to allow it to continue functioning as intended. Township Builders, Inc. of Little Rock was selected as the renovation contractor to implement the plan. After numbering each of the stones in the affected portion of the spandrel wall of the bridge, the contractor carefully disassembled the wall, reset the stones plumb, and then reinstalled the fill and road surfacing between the spandrel walls. Township Builders was also tasked with reconstruction of stacked native stone used to protect the creek banks between the bridge and the adjacent dam that forms the park’s Lake Roosevelt.
Those familiar with this picturesque stone arch bridge will hardly notice any change in appearance as every effort was made to replace the stones in exactly the same positions they originally occupied. To avoid future displacement of the fill between the spandrel walls, a concrete deck was poured to serve as the new road surface.
Randy Roberson, Arkansas State Parks’ park planner for Petit Jean State Park, said, “Township Builders was the right contractor for the job. They took this unique challenge in stride and finished the project ahead of schedule.” He noted that through the grant funding obtained from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, the combined effort of park management, designers, and the contractor, the Davies Bridge is once again open to traffic. The new concrete bridge deck, and a posted weight limit of five tons, should ensure that the bridge remains open for decades to come. From Ark. 154, Red Bluff Drive crosses over the bridge and turns left to continue as a scenic drive. To the right, Red Bluff Drive connects to Montgomery Trace and then to Winrock Drive on the north brow of Petit Jean Mountain.
Petit Jean State Park (www.petitjeanstatepark.com) is located atop Petit Jean Mountain 21 miles southwest of Morrilton. It is one of 52 state parks administered by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
For further information, contact: Wally Scherrey, park superintendent, Petit Jean State Park, 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Road, Morrilton, AR 72110; phone: (501) 727-5441;