Carriage House to serve as Ash Grove’s bicyclist haven

Steve Chapman

The Barham House, located at Ash Grove City Park, is now relegated to use by locals only, in an effort to better maintain facilities and safety. (Photo by Steve Chapman)

Barham House remains available for local citizens’ use only, following run of visitor issues
Ash Grove will soon have a new place for cyclists to stay while passing through town. On Friday, June 28, Mayor Caleb Smith announced via a post on the city’s Facebook page that the Carriage House on Main Street, downtown had been chosen as a place where the cyclists could stay while in Ash Grove.
“As part of our efforts to support all businesses and maintain the integrity of our city park, we have decided to designate the ‘Carriage House’ as the hostel for cross country cyclists on their adventure through Ash Grove, Missouri,” he said.
Cyclists have stayed at Barham House for almost a half century
Cyclists traveling through the city started using the Barham House as a hostel almost 50 years ago. In a Facebook post dated May 31, Smith explained how the tradition started.
“We (had) allowed cyclists to camp in the park for many years,” he said. “We had bad weather (one year) and allowed a cyclist inside the house for safety reasons. That cyclist went on down the road and shared that information with the next, and it became the Ash Grove ‘norm.’”

Problems with the use of the Barham House
Cyclists were still able to use the Barham House and camp in the city park until last year. Camping in the park became illegal, he said, when certain people chose to abuse the concept.
“Last year the board passed an ordinance prohibiting camping on any public property,” he said. “This was a safety decision based on a local couple placing a mattress under a pavilion in the city park and basically living there for weeks under the guise of ‘camping’.
As for the Barham House, Smith said the decision to stop letting cyclists stay there came about due to a myriad of reasons.
“Last year, during a city department head meeting with the mayor, a topic of discussion was the liability concerns of the Barham House being used as a hostel for cyclists and potentially taking away business from the three local Airbnb’s,” he said. “All departments were equally invested in this discussion, as all employees receive phone calls and texts requesting that we open the Barham House to a cyclist/racer at all different hours of the day and night.”

Not all cyclists were considerate guests
Smith also said that some cyclists took advantage of the city’s hospitality.
“Mike and Wendy Davis volunteered their time as local ‘greeters,’ allowing cyclists access to the house and cleaning up afterwards,” he said. “When they decided to no longer volunteer, the burden fell upon the police department, city hall and the pool staff. Most cyclists leave kind words and an occasional donation; others want to stay for additional days and leave a mess. On many occasions, alcoholic beverages were left behind for the pool kids to find during their daily cleaning chores.”

Carriage House offers a solution
Making the Carriage House a hostel for the cyclists, Smith said, meant that Ash Grove would be able to continue to welcome cyclists to the city, while making the Barham House “available for citizens to rent for family celebrations with its proximity to the playground area and park amenities.”
“By offering the ‘Carriage House’, we provide a safe and comfortable place for cyclists,” he said, “conveniently located behind the gazebo in our historic downtown, near restaurants, grocery/convenience stores, and other attractions. This approach allows cyclists to experience the charm and pride of our close-knit community while preserving the intended use of our city park facilities.”
Smith said the Carriage House would be ready for cyclists to stay at shortly, and another Ash Grove building would also possibly serve as a place for them to stay.
“Renovations on the ‘Carriage House’ are expected to be completed within the next couple of weeks,” he said. “Future renovations to the ‘Killingsworth Hall’ could potentially accommodate larger groups of cyclists.”


Lawrence County Record

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Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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