By Roger McKinney
NEOSHO, Mo. —
The concrete stairway connecting High Street with Spring Street at the entrance of Big Spring Park has been off limits to residents for several months.
The concrete has deteriorated, and the handrails are loose. That has made the stairway unsafe, according to Wes Franklin, city spokesman.
An effort to restore the stairway is in the discussion stage so that an important piece of Neosho’s past can be a part of its future.
Franklin said records of the Newton County Historical Society indicate the concrete for the stairway was poured in 1923. Franklin, who is a member of the society, said the concrete steps replaced a wooden staircase that had been installed in the 1880s. That staircase replaced an earlier one that was built in the 1870s or earlier.
From the top, on High Street, there’s a view of Neosho’s downtown.
“We want to preserve them for cultural reasons,” Franklin said.
Franklin said the society might team up with the Neosho Area Community Foundation to conduct a fundraising campaign to restore the stairway.
The cost of restoring the steps is estimated at $30,000, Franklin said. He said the city also would contribute. He said activity may increase as spring approaches.
“The hope is to get the community involved,” he said.
Jason Stipp, vice president of the Neosho Area Community Foundation, said foundation officials have talked with City Manager Troy Royer about the steps. He said conversations with the historical society also are planned.
“It’s got a lot of history to it,” Stipp said of the stairway at the park’s entrance. “Big Spring Park is a big part of Neosho’s identity and its past. It’s the crown jewel of Neosho.”
William Smith lives near the top of the stairway on High Street. He said that when it was open, schoolchildren and adults used the stairway as a shortcut to the park, the library and downtown. He said they now have to walk an additional three blocks.
He has a dim view of the city’s idea of seeking donations.
“Phooey,” Smith said. “The town has the money in its budget.”
Smith said the stairs should be restored.
“It’s part of the city,” he said. “It’s used. The kids run up and down them. It’s a nice thing for Neosho to preserve.”
THE NEOSHO Parks, Recreation and Golf Course Board recently approved a resolution supporting restoration of the staircase, said city spokesman Wes Franklin.