Common Staff Writer
Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman, and others have been working for months on efforts to restore the Otway Covered Bridge. In an exclusive interview with the Times, Opperman said the project will get funded but to what extent is still unknown.
In August of 2012 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.
“As far as funding (local match) things are going to happen, things look very positive. It’s a matter of what we can do, depending on what we are going to be allowed to do and what funds I can use and where funds are coming from,” Opperman said.
He said that was a complicated answer for a complicated project.
“Funds may becoming from all different directions on this, for the local match. The federal portion is set, the government has committed $285,025 for this project,” Opperman said. “We have an issue with the local match portion because, we have a steel truss next to the bridge that’s not in good shape and we want to try to do something with that at the same time. We want to try to make the whole structure passable.”
Opperman said he and others are working on a lot of different aspects to this project.
“The covered bridge is going to get funded. What we are going to be able to do for other things that’s still up in the air. Things are progressing in the right direction,” Opperman said.
Part of the groups efforts to raise the money to restore the bridge was to have the county take over the ownership of the bridge.
In 2012 the Scioto County Commissioners approved a resolution to transfer ownership of the Otway covered bridge to the county.
According to Opperman, similar resolutions were passes by the Village of Otway and Brush Creek Township.
“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.”
In March of 2012, 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.
Nichols said Belfor Restoration, of Columbus, was awarded a contract to replace the damaged part of the covered bridge roof.
Opperman said the bridge currently has a bow in it. He said the bridge 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.
Donations can be sent to Scenic Scioto Heritage Trail, PO Box 536 Portsmouth, OH 45662 (Attention Covered Bridge.)
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 740-353-1151, or email@example.com