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Slow down and save a scenic road

Posted Monday, December 21, 2009, at 7:29 AM

I don't know if any of our Statesman viewers have been keeping up with the controversy over the stretch of Bloomfield Road from Cape Girardeau east to Highway 74. I think you Dexter folks call Highway 25 "the old way," so you may take I-55 to Cape, but we inhabitants of North Stoddard County take 25 to 74 at Dutchtown - and then to Bloomfield Road, which turns off at that awful Strack Gravel yard and winds past Dalhousie Golf course and then to west Cape.

The trees arch over the road at the top of the hill, making a yellow canopy in the fall. In the spring, purple Sweet Williams grow wild alongside the pavement, and grape vines 5 inches or more in diameter drape from tall trees. It is truly a breath-taking drive.

It seems that the narrow, winding road is dangerous, yet it gets a large amount of traffic for a country road, because it provides a short-cut to the shopping area around Walmart. According to one resident, there have been 30 injury accidents and one death over the last three years.

For this reason, there is increasing support for widening and straightening out Bloomfield Road, taking down the trees, and turning this beautiful road into just another stretch of dull, ordinary highway.

This section of the old Cape to Bloomfield Road is one of the few left which retains the original beauty of that pre-Civil War road. Once an Indian trail, the historic path was used by Civil War forces, who used to camp at the natural spring - which many motorists probably think is just a moss-covered duck pond.

The road wound west along the top of the hill, then turned south and followed Crowley's Ridge to the old town of Bloomfield, which was a bustling center of activity in the mid-to-late 1800's.

What would I give to travel that route today? Most of it is gone, and few people other than, perhaps, Dr. Frank Nickell (Southeast Mo. history department) or Joe Brown (Southeast Mo. sage) even know where it was.

Louis Houck, historian and railroad tycoon, chose the Bloomfield Road area in which to build a reproduction of a Scottish castle for his bride. There are many of us who believe that Houck did more for Southeast Missouri than any other figure in history. The man is a legend, and he rode his horse back and forth from his home - Dalhousie (and I'm NOT talking about the golf course) - along that very Bloomfield Road to the college to supervise the building of Acadamic Hall in 1905.

How can anyone even think of destroying that road? Why is it not protected?

I drove to Cape Sunday and was pleased to see electronic speed signs put up at both ends of Bloomfield Road. The speed limit is 35 m.p.h., and I pray that these signs will make us remember to keep our speed down.

In the summertime, the narrow road winds past the Sweet Williams and a white fence. If you travel early in the morning or in the evening, you may see a doe with twin fawns, as we did many years ago.

How can anyone want to use this road as a race track?

It'll be the voters in Cape who will have a say-so in this issue. The only thing we travelers can do is slow down, abide by the speed limit, and - for God's sake - do NOT use that stretch as a short cut when you're late for work, a doctor's appointment, or a shopping trip.

If the weather is bad, take another route. Bloomfield Road is not a good place to be when the ice hits.

I have loved that stretch of old road for more than fifty years. It breaks my heart to think that bulldozers will push down those old trees and straighten out a road which has been a place of peace, beauty and history for over 300 years.

From the rolling hills of Tillman, Mo., at the northern edge of Crowley's Ridge, this is your rural reporter, Madeline, wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas! May we all slow down and enjoy the season.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Dear M D, I so agree that the road shouldn't be changed. So many of the old roads,towns and other sites have disappeared that it saddens me that my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will only know them through what I can remember. Yes, I'm for some change and improvement, but what I'd like to see more is for everybody to slow down and see what is around them. Once it is gone, it's gone. If you JUST have to get there yesterday, leave yesterday!!

-- Posted by theoldwomansoldman on Mon, Dec 21, 2009, at 9:34 AM

I do so agree! I would never wish to go back to the days when we traveled a narrow two-lane highway to St. Louis or Springfield, but some of these other roads need to stay the way they are.

I saw the comments concerning this story on the Southeast Missourian site a while back. I think one man said it all, when he pointed out that a widening and straightening of Bloomfield Road will only encourage traffic to speed FASTER than it does now!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Dec 21, 2009, at 11:13 AM

NONONONONO, please leave as is and place a 15 mph sign if necessary. One of the most beautiful sights anytime of the year.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Mon, Dec 21, 2009, at 3:22 PM

I wish we had a fall photo of that road to post. I would love to see it.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Dec 22, 2009, at 7:30 AM

I drive this road daily to get to and from work. While I love the view of the trees in spring and fall, I'm not in love with the road itself. It is narrow (which doesn't bother me), but it is also SLICK! The pavement itself is fairly smooth textured and when you add the tree sap that coats this road and a little rain it turns into a sheet of glass. As I said I travel this road to get to work and my office sits along this road. Every time it rains I count the number of times the Cape Fire Department, police, and EMS head down there to clean up an accident (usually 2 or more times per day of rain). I'd bet the number of injury accidents and/or deaths is probably higher that your report.

For example, this morning when I went past I saw a truck (or car, not sure) completely on it's side wedged into a ditch across the road from the entrance to the golf course. It was so deep into the ditch that the side of the vehicle was even with the ground on either side of the ditch.

I think the solution is to enforce the current speed limit, post a reduced speed limit during rain or inclement weather, and repave this road with a rougher texture asphalt. I don't feel it needs to be widened because it will encourage speeding.

-- Posted by farmwife2 on Wed, Dec 23, 2009, at 3:42 PM

Good suggestions, farm wife. You have some very logical ideas. I wish someone important (to this issue) could see your comment.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Dec 24, 2009, at 9:29 PM

Slow down, smell the daffodils in front of the old home place, watch the deer cross the road, keep a safe speed, put away the cell phone, and contact Nature Conservancy to help place the right of way on this old piece of trail into a scenic byway.......I still love going into Cape the "back" way, thanks for a fine memory,,,,,,molater, kk

-- Posted by kkcaver47 on Thu, Dec 31, 2009, at 7:11 AM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
Good advice, kkcaver.

I have been gently berated by one of my former students, who expressed a desire to know more of the history of the old Bloomfield Road and Louis Houck. That's all the excuse I need for a history blog, so this on my to-do list for the next few days!

Madeline - beautifully said. I would hate to see the trees cut & roads widen. Hopefully more could be done to slow everyone down and take in the beauty

Your right, would love to follow the old road from Bloomfield to Cape as my ancestors did.

Thanks for the article and would love for you to send it to the Cape paper and perhaps MODOT

-- Posted by garden lady on Fri, Jan 1, 2010, at 3:55 AM

The road can be grooved to aid water runoff. Real world experiments in Europe and England have shown that driver safety significantly increases with few or no traffic signs or speed limit signs. So it might be better to remove all the signs along the road, and just put up skull and crossbones at the dangerous corners listing how many injury/fatal crashes there have been.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Jan 2, 2010, at 5:45 PM

Skull and Crossbones! MoDot would really go for that one, FJ!

Though actually, I think the road is under another special roads district jurisdiction - not MoDot.

Still, your idea may be a bit too.....groovy, I think, to appeal to our highway engineers...

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Jan 3, 2010, at 9:03 PM

I could go on and on about one of my favorite roads in the world. I have SEVERAL pictures of it in the fall. Madeline, let me know how to get them to you!

#1 When we were kids, Bloomfield Road was the "go to" road because no one had air conditioning in their cars, and when you went to Cape and turned onto Bloomfield Road, it was like having air conditioning!

#2 The first time my son drove down Bloomfield Road, he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is just like a car commercial!" He loved that road. I lost him last December, so it would break my heart to lose that road.

#3 There are VERY few roads in this area whose trees "interlock" at the top and form a canopy so perfect that your headlights turn on at midday!

#4 When I was in Cape Cod and saw roads that reminded me of Bloomfield Road, it made me realize what a priceless gift it is.

Have you ever turned east on Wolf Road off Bloomfield Road, driven to the end of it, and gazed upon the gorgeous yellow farmhouse that Louis Hauck built for his daughter when she married? He built it in 1907, and the fireplace mantles were purchased at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis and brought by riverboat down the Mississippi.

We drive down this beautiful road at least once a week, and I will be very sad if it changes.

-- Posted by lovebooks on Mon, Jan 4, 2010, at 6:56 PM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
Lovebooks, are your pictures digital? If so, send some of them to me at advancensc@sbcglobal.net. I would LOVE to post one on here - and I'm so glad you share my love for that beautiful road. I know we're not alone.

Here's my plan for saving Bloomfield Road:


-- Posted by James Baughn on Tue, Jan 5, 2010, at 11:00 AM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
Wow, James, so good to see you here! And so good to see you joining the groundswell to save Bloomfield Road!

I'm no engineer, but your solution sounds workable to me!

James, great to have your input on this issue!! You have probably driven every road in Missouri!

By the way, I absolutely LOVE your blog on the Southeast Missourian!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jan 5, 2010, at 9:54 PM

kk, glad to see you are back. I remember traveling that old road back in the 1930's, the first time my family traveled to the big city of St. Louis.


-- Posted by mahart on Fri, Jan 8, 2010, at 7:28 PM

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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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