What comes to mind when thinking of life in a “River City?” Perhaps it’s standing with your feet in the sand on the bank, feeling the breeze coast across the surface of the river and hearing the sweet sounds of nature. Although Jefferson City does offer that opportunity on the north side of the river at Carl R. Noren Access, the south side, where most of the population resides and where the Capitol building stands, doesn’t yet have the same pleasure.
A Jefferson City philanthropist, 94-year old Betty Jo “B.J.” DeLong has had a particular interest in the development of a riverfront park for Jefferson City for the last 20-30 years. In 2018, she made the decision to donate a portion of her assets, $3.2 million, to construct a bridge to Adrian’s Island.
Adrian’s Island, a 1 mile stretch of land from the Missouri State Capitol to the Missouri State Penitentiary along the banks of the Missouri River offers an opportunity to re-establish our historic connection with the river from the Capitol grounds. In honor of Missouri’s 200th Anniversary in 2021, we will have access to the 30 acres of forest and wetlands with the Bicentennial Bridge to the Island, an 826-foot bridge that will safely allow visitors to cross above the railroad tracks and onto the Island.
The entrance to the Bridge will be located on a donated .19-acre plot of land between the Senate Garage and the Missouri Veteran’s Memorial. The ADA, bicycle and emergency vehicle-accessible bridge will safely carry visitors over the railroad tracks as they also walk through one of many rail car-style replicas containing interactive exhibits highlighting the various aspects of Missouri’s history. Each rail-car will also provide seating and shelter from the sun and wind as well as solar-generated energy for lighting within the galleries. The bridge will not only provide uninterrupted views of the Missouri River but also a unique view of the Governor’s Mansion, Lohman’s Landing, the wetlands and wooded areas below. Visitors can enhance their experience by using their personal devices for an audio tour of the bridge.
The river bank and hiking trails can be directly accessed at the end of the bridge as well. Future plans include a possible outdoor gathering space or amphitheater and even a riverfront park. Adrian’s Island could also provide direct access to the proposed redevelopment at the Missouri State Penitentiary site. Because of the close proximity to the Katy Trail and the Missouri River Pedestrian Bridge, the bridge would also attract bicyclists passing through Jefferson City. With 400,000 visitors annually to the Capitol Complex, the Bicentennial Bridge will surely be a popular attraction.
The project is estimated to cost around $4 million. Fundraising efforts are 90% complete due to B.J. DeLong’s generous donation. The project can now begin construction ahead of schedule with construction beginning in August. By the Missouri Bicentennial celebration in 2021, we can revel in the history and beauty of the city we are proud to call home from the Bicentennial Bridge to the Island and be able to share it with future generations.