Two days a week at sunrise, Roy Moyers walks from his home in Spanish Lake one mile to the Missouri entrance of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Most days he's accompanied by his wife, Donna Schlemmer, and their dog, Sasha.
Roy's trek isn't just for exercise, although he does enjoy walking on the bridge. He has the important responsibility of serving as a gatekeeper – a volunteer who opens the wrought iron security gates on both sides of the river every morning.
In addition to Roy and Donna, Cathy Jaegar, AJ Wade and Diane Wildman have been opening the gates since 2008, when Trailnet could no longer afford to pay to have the gates opened and closed each day. The six gatekeepers work as a team, calling or e-mailing each other if they are unable to open or close the bridge on their assigned day.
"We've formed a network to make sure it's taken care of," Roy says. "We work together."
Thousands of cyclists and pedestrians have enjoyed the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge since it re-opened to the public on June 1, 1999. The bridge spans the Mississippi River and provides a vital link in the bi-state trail system, connecting to the St. Louis Riverfront Trail in Missouri and the MCT Confluence Trail in Illinois.
Trailnet became involved with the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in 1995 by initiating a restoration project to re-open the bridge, then in disrepair, as one of the world's longest bicycle and pedestrian bridges. Trailnet completed a master plan for the future of the bridge and has since implemented a number of its planned improvements - including a Route 66 themed bump-out, full-span pedestrian lighting, Missouri-side restrooms, benches, bike racks and interpretive plaques.
Although the City of Madison, Illinois owns the bridge, Trailnet manages its operations under the terms of a long-term lease. The City of Madison police serve as the evening counterpart to the volunteer gatekeepers, securing the gates at sunset each day.
Roy has seen portions of the bridge's rich history firsthand - from its glory days to its closure in 1968 to its recent revitalization. He remembers driving over the bridge when he was child. Once part of the beloved Route 66 highway, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although countless cyclists and Route 66 enthusiasts have traveled the bridge, few people realize Roy and five other dedicated volunteers make it possible.
"We're very proud of it," Roy says when asked why he donates so much of his time to serve as gatekeeper. "The bridge is an old lady that still has some class. Trailnet brought her back to life."