Don't let history crumble

The interurban bridge has long been a part of that scenic landscape. If it is going to remain so, the community that wants to save it must step up.

The Editorial Board
Tue, 03 Dec 2019 05:00:00 GMT

The old interurban bridge spanning the Maumee River at Roche de Boeuf Island near Waterville is a treasured landmark.

But the one-time railroad bridge built in 1908 and last used in the 1940s is also becoming a serious hazard. And that means it is time to act.

The span is easily recognizable with its earthen-filled columns just downstream from Farnsworth Metropark. It looks almost like an ancient ruin as portions of it have crumbled and trees have begun growing up along it in several spots.

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The state of Ohio has owned the bridge since 1943, but ODOT removed it from the list of Ohio’s bridges in 1983. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and for several years was the focus of preservation efforts by a Roche de Boeuf Bridge Historical Society, though those efforts did not amount to much.

Now is the time for preservationists to reorganize and get serious about plans to save the bridge. Judging by the reaction of community members when Ohio Department of Transportation officials suggested the best response to recent concerns over chunks of the bridge falling into the Maumee would be to demolish the entire structure, there is at least some heartfelt interest in saving it among the community.

ODOT officials estimate it would cost $2.2 million for complete demolition, $3.9 million to keep one symbolic span and tear down the rest, and $14.9 million to “restore” the bridge. The state agency is prepared to spend $2 million on whatever solution is best, but the remaining money will have to come from other sources.

This is where the community must step up and organize to raise money for preservation. That may mean preserving the entire structure or saving just a portion of it, depending on how successful fund-raising turns out to be.

State officials are rightly concerned that the bridge cannot be allowed to continue to collapse bit by bit, threatening anyone in the river below it, especially as the Maumee River Water Trail is developed.

The Maumee River, particularly in that area, is a gorgeous natural resource that is enjoyed by kayakers and canoeists, fishermen, hikers, and campers from around the region.

The interurban bridge has long been a part of that scenic landscape. If it is going to remain so, the community that wants to save it must step up.

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