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Rocky Ford Bridge — better known as Bird Bridge — crosses the Cottonwood River on Road P about six and half miles outside of Emporia.

Lyon County Commissioners discussed the possibility of seeking a historical designation for two area bridges during a regularly-scheduled action session Thursday.

County Engineer Chip Woods informed commissioners that members of the Kansas State Historical Society had selected county Road 335 and its accompanying bridge as a candidate for historical site designation. If it was to gain the designation, Woods said, any improvements to the bridge would need to be approved by the society beforehand. The structure was recently condemned by the Lyon County Road and Bridge Department due to a lack of integrity despite limited use.

“This bridge is on a dead-end road,” Commissioner Dan Slater said. “It goes across the river or creek, and stops right there. Really, the reason it may be a historical bridge is that there’s no sense in rebuilding it. We tried at one point in the past, but it’s really a bridge to nowhere … The condition on it is definitely not up to par anymore. It’s a timber bridge, and obviously the wood can only last so long before it begins to fall apart.”

Commissioners instructed Woods to suggest a new candidate bridge for the historical society to designate, eventually settling on Rocky Ford Bridge — better known as Bird Bridge — near Road P and Road 140. The bridge is the site where, in 1983, Emporian Sandy Bird died. Her husband, Emporia Pastor Tom Bird, and his mistress, Lorna Anderson, were later convicted of murdering both Sandy and Anderson’s husband, Martin.

The purpose behind the switch, Slater said, was to prevent the buildup of additional maintenance costs for a structure that received such infrequent use and could become a future liability for the county and nearby landowners.

“It’s not worth putting a new bridge in there because it doesn’t go anywhere except an empty field ...” Slater said. “We want a better bridge for a historical site, especially if we have to keep it looking nice. It makes no sense in spending a fortune for a bridge that doesn’t go anywhere. If it’s going to cost $1 million to fix up an old landmark that’s not really safe to begin with, the commission would have a hard time spending the money. Taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to be paying for a bridge that isn’t functional and that is dangerous to go across, either.”

Woods is expected to report back to commissioners during a future action session. No formal construction or renovation plans exist for either bridge at this point in time.

During the meeting, Lyon County Commissioners also:

• Approved a quote from Traffic Control Services, Inc. for the purchase of two vehicle camera systems in the amount of $13,024.20.

• Approved a quote from Ozark Laser & Shoring for a Sokkia iX-500 Robot RC and Hybrid setup in the amount of $28,140.

• Approved a bid from D&L Trailers for a 2020 Diamond C 24-foot equipment trailer in the amount of $12,980.

• Approved the purchase of a Smart Board for the Community Corrections Large Conference Room in the amount of $10,400.

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