County to take ownership of covered bridge

November 22, 2012

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

On Tuesday the Scioto County Commissioners approved a resolution to transfer ownership of the Otway covered bridge to the county.

According to Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman, similar resolutions were passes by the Village of Otway and Brush Creek Township.

In August a federal grant of $285,025 was awarded to fund needed repairs and upgrades to the Otway covered bridge. In order to receive the funding, $70,000 needs to be raised by the community as matching funds.

“Throughout our process of trying to figure out how to fund this thing, we’ve uncovered the Otway Historical Society owns the bridge but not the adjoining ground next to it. In order to facilitate grant funding opportunities presently and in the future, we’ve worked with the village of Otway and Brush Creek Township on trying to get a road dedication through there, which will help facilitate funding options,” Opperman said.

He said each agency involved has passed a resolution as an agreement on how the bridge will operate.

“This agreement gives control to the Scioto County Engineer’s office, to maintain and take care of this bridge and facilitate this project. As the main governing agency in the county we will be the ones to maintain the structure and will be inspecting it annually,” Opperman said. “We will be putting it on our inventory with shared jurisdiction. Everybody is going to work together to try to preserve this roadway.”

According to released information from The Otway Historical Society, “the Otway covered bridge has been a historical landmark that has attracted people to our county and to the Otway area for many years. However, we often drive by on a regular basis, sometimes without even giving it a glance. It has been a lack of dreams that has allowed the bridge to become in a state of serious disrepair. It is a lack of dreams that threatens the bridge’s very existence for the next generation to enjoy.”

Opperman said if the Otway area were to receive a lot of rain, water would get on the bridge and it would likely cause significant damage.

In March, a portion of the bridge roof was damaged by an F-0 strength tornado that went through Otway, and also damaged the fire department. According to Otway Mayor Suzanne Nichols the damages to the bridge were estimated at $1,800.

“When the tornado went through (Otway) it did a lot more damage than some people may like to think. Fortunately there was some bracing inside of it, which helped to stabilize it,” Opperman said.

Opperman said the bridge has a bow in it and that it needs attention in order to preserve it.

“We are trying to do this as quickly as we can in trying to address this situation,” Opperman said.

According to The Otway Historical Society, the Scenic Scioto Heritage Trail Committee, the Otway Historical Society, Brush Creek Township Trustees, the Scioto County Commissioners, and the Scioto County Engineer’s Office have come together to work on formulating a plan and applying for grant monies that would allow the bridge to be repaired and preserved.

“If $70,000 can be raised before the upcoming deadline, the grant money will be released and construction to repair and preserve the structure could begin in the spring of 2013. However, if the matching funds ($70,000) are not raised, the grant funding will be lost and the future of the bridge will be in jeopardy,” said Jonathan King, President of the Otway Historical Society. “There is a deadline to get this money; there is also a deadline for the bridge because it’s failing fast.”

According to the Scenic Scioto Heritage Trail, the bridge is located southwest of the junction of state routes 73 and 348. The bridge was erected in 1874 and was in use until it was bypassed in 1963. This historic structure is listed on the National Registry and was completely restored by the village of Otway in 1974. What makes the Otway Bridge so unique is that, of the 80 or so covered bridges that were built in the history of Scioto County, it is the lone survivor.

Opperman said work is being done to raise the necessary matching funds to the project.

“We have not finalized where all of the money is coming from yet. We are getting money from various sources. Yesterday (Monday) we visited with the fourth grade class at Bloom-Vernon Schools who made a donation,” Opperman said. “We have applied to various locations for funding. We have applications in through the Ohio Public Works Commission, Ohio Historical Society, Scioto Foundation and various other places.”

He said once the bridge has been worked on, the weakest link on the bridge will be the steel truss.

“In the new applications for funding we are writing for funding we are trying to incorporate that into the project so that we can get some work on that also,” Opperman said.

He said things are looking positive for funding but they are not there yet.

“We will not know were we are at for a while, because a lot of these grant applications take time to go through their process,” Opperman said.

Opperman said the engineer’s office taking over responsibility for the bridge is a major step, with a lot more steps to go.

For more information contact Norval Davis at 740-372-8320, Mike Seaman at 740-372-8888, or Jack Orlett at 740-259-5747 or visit the groups facebook pages “Otway Historical Society and Otway Covered Bridge.”

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or wallen@heartlandpublications.com.