Blenheim wants its bridge back

By David Avitabile

Though it was washed away in the flood after Hurricane Irene last August, the historic Blenheim Covered Bridge may rise again.
Blenheim resident and former Supervisor Gail Shaffer told county supervisors Friday that a committee in the town is planning to create an authentic replica of the bridge that was built in 1855.
The "new" bridge may be built from wood from local trees and also parts of the original bridge, she said.
County Department of Public Works employees began a salvage operation to find as many pieces of the original span, which was built in 1855, as possible.
Many of the pieces are being stored in a local barn but many other pieces are still on private land or other places waiting to be saved, Ms. Shaffer said.
Though the bridge was destroyed, the county still owns the pieces of the bridge.
Many people have come forward to turn over pieces of the bridge found on their property but there is one person who has some major timbers from the span that has refused to turn it over and said he will sell the pieces for profit.
This person, she said, should not be allowed to "profit off the misery of our county," Ms. Shaffer said.
County attorney Michael West said he would be aggressive in the recovery in the pieces of the bridge.
Ms. Shaffer said a replica of the bridge could be "a wonderful restoration that will be the centerpiece "in the area's recovery."
The restoration, she added, could be a community effort that would help restore "the spirit of our county."
Ms. Shaffer, who is on a steering committee on the long-term recovery of Blenheim, said in addition to original pieces that are being recovered, help has been promised by the Northeast Covered Bridge Society and RPI, along with local craftsmen.
She noted that the original blueprints for the bridge, once the longest single-span covered bridge in the world, still exist along with some of the original tools used to construct the bridge.
The plans, she said, have the support of many local, state and federal officials.
Supervisors last week passed a resolution, asking the U.S. Department of the Interior, and National Parks Service, not to de-designate the bridge as a national historic landmark.
"We are not ready to give up the ghost, to consign this valued portion of our history to the recesses of some photo album, some time-worn display or to a memory," the resolution read in part.
Supervisors asked for a delay of 18 months to two years in the de-designation process.
The additional time will "allow for careful study and enable a bridge plan to be completed," the resolution stated.
Retaining the historic designation is important in getting much needed grants to complete the project, Ms. Shaffer said.
The bridge was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

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