The historic covered bridge in Stonelick Township has caused controversy between residents and the Clermont County Engineer’s Office, and several residents came to speak their concerns and commissioners’ Jan. 11 meeting.
“What we’re interested in is a true historic restoration of the bridge,” Catherine Rush-Ossenbeck, a Stonelick Township resident who lives next to the bridge, said. “Not taking it apart and replacing the siding and floor, which we believe destroys the history of the bridge.”
Rush-Ossenbeck and her husband, Tim, explained that the bridge, located on Stonelick-Williams Corner Road, was built in 1878 and contains historic structures including the Howe Truss.
According to Rush-Ossenbeck and the Clermont County Engineer’s Office, there have been several instances where the bridge was damaged over the years, but in 2010 the bridge was damaged to the point of closure.
Rush-Ossenbeck said she and other neighbors witnessed a Forest Green Recycling truck, exceeding the weight limit for the bridge, cross it and damage the base. She said it wasn’t the first garbage truck to go over the bridge.
Clermont County Engineer’s rehabilitation plans for the bridge evolved after the bridge was closed, however, funding was not available to complete the more than $1 million project until 2012.
The plan proposes repairs to the bridge, improvements to the outdated structures, and an increase in the weight limit from three tons to 12 tons.
And while residents agree the bridge needs repairs, Rush-Ossenbeck said many of them don’t agree with the proposed rehabilitation plan and have now formed a grassroots effort to prevent engineers from carrying out the current plans.
“We’d like to preserve the bridge in its current format,” John Kies, past president of the Miami Rifle and Pistol Club, which is located on Stonelick-Williams Corner Road, said.
Both Kies and Rush-Ossenbeck said in addition to preserving the historical structures of the bridge they also want to preserve the quiet nature of the road.
“Fire trucks and school buses have not been able to go over and it has been fine,” Rush-Ossenbeck said. “The reason we moved to Stonelick Township was because it was a peaceful country road.”
After listening to the concerns of residents, Commissioner Bob Proud said they would take what was said into consideration, however, he added that they don’t have the final say over the details of engineering projects in the county.
“This covered bridge is near and dear to us as well,” Commissioner Proud said. “We will talk with the engineer’s office. I would wager to say Pat Manger is not wanting to destroy the history.”
Todd Gadbury, bridge engineer for the Clermont County Engineer’s Office, said the main concern with the bridge is safety.
“Our concern is we have to make sure the traveling public is safe,” Gadbury said. “A three ton weight limit on a bridge does not give us a lot of room.”
Gadbury said a large truck, such as a Ford F250, would exceed the three ton limit. He said leaving the weight limit at three tons would be unsafe.
“Twelve tons is not going to increase a huge volume of traffic that can use the bridge,” he said.
Gadbury said the plan also proposes the narrowing of the bridge from 17 feet to 15 feet, which will help insure traffic does not increase on the bridge or the road.
In addition, he said they plan to install railing inside the covered bridge so drivers cannot scrape the side structures. They will also install warning signs before the bridge on both sides to help make sure drivers know the limitations.
“We want to follow the historic significance of the structure,” Gadbury said. “The way we plan on doing it keeps the majority of the structure there.”
For more information about the project visit http://tid.clermontcountyohio.gov/CoveredBridge.aspx, The Rush-Ossenbeck’s website can be found at http://clermontcountycoveredbridge.wordpress.com.