BRIDGE RALLY ... Amos Schwartz of Geneva, a professional covered bridge restorer and an expert on such old-fashioned construction techniques, speaks at an October rally to support the historic covered bridge in background. At right is Doug Milligan. (Photo by Eric Mann)
The third time proved to be a charm for Adams County and the South Adams Trails Inc. group. State officials on Thursday announced that nearly $400,000 in historic preservation grant funding had been awarded for the renovation of the covered bridge near Ceylon.
Local preservationists had been rebuffed twice earlier in their attempts to secure federal Community Development Block Grant funds for the rehabilitation project.
But an announcement from Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman confirmed that Adams County was among 26 communities to receive Community Focus Fund (CFF) grants totaling more than $13 million.
Adams County's share of that total, administered by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, was $397,152.
"Obviously, we're delighted," Geneva town manager and councilman-elect Doug Milligan said Thursday. Milligan is a member of the South Adams Trails Inc. group and has been an active and vocal supporter of the bridge renovation project.
He noted that OCRA awards a "limited number" of historic preservation grants annually, "which is why it took us three times" to obtain funding for the project.
The aging bridge, which is the last covered span across the Wabash River — the official river of Indiana — is 150 feet long and about 21 feet wide and was erected as an open bridge in 1860, then was covered in 1879. Over the years it has fallen into a state of disrepair and currently has "several issues that need to be addressed," Milligan said.
The overall cost of the proposed repair and rehabilitation project will be around $440,000, including a $44,128 local matching amount required by OCRA.
Milligan said a five-member committee, representing the board of county commissioners, the county parks and recreation department and the SATI group, will in the near future select an engineer/architect to oversee the rehabilitation project. The committee is accepting Requests for Qualifications from architectural firms until January 14.
A public rally was held in August at the bridge to boost the prospects of getting grant funding to help repair the structure. Among the guests was Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, who pointed out that the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Davis told the gathered crowd that there were hundreds of covered bridges in Indiana, but fewer than 100 remain. He described covered bridges as “an indispensable part of our heritage” and said a covered bridge in the state that had been destroyed by a tornado in 2008 was reconstructed using the pieces left after the storm.
He said to those involved in trying to save the bridge, “You’re doing all the right things”
Larry Macklin, executive director of the Adams County Economic Development Corp. who has been heavily involved in environmental and preservationist efforts for years, told the crowd there is “a direct relationship” between tourism and economic development, with the bridge being a tourist site.