Orange Road Bridge
Township park may be span's final resting place
The historic Orange Road Bridge might be incorporated into a walking path at a Liberty Township park, says the head of a task force working to save the bridge.
The possibility surfaced during talks with officials at Liberty Park, who said the bridge could become part of a trail in the park if it were relocated there.
Previously, volunteers were leaning toward preserving the bridge as an outdoor "museum" site, with doubts that it would ever again be opened for pedestrians.
No decisions have yet been made regarding the fate of the historic bridge, which was built in 1898 and closed in 2007.
The task force will present its findings and recommendations to the Liberty Township Board of Trustees at its meeting Monday, July 23, said task force member Jim Bresnahan.
Ultimately, the trustees will make a joint decision with the Delaware County Engineer's Office.
Officials began exploring ways to preserve the structurally unsound bridge last year. If nothing else is done, the engineer's office plans to tear it down.
But members of the task force have said it could be moved to a township park, or even renovated and left in its original location, just east of Olentangy River Road and south of the new bridge that replaced it in 2009.
"Ideally, it would stay right there. From a historical authenticity point of view, that's the best place," Bresnahan said.
But the bridge probably couldn't be opened for use in its current location, and it would be subject to strict, ongoing maintenance regulations.
Among the parks under consideration for relocation are Liberty Park, near the intersection of Home and Liberty roads; and Havener Park, east of Liberty Road and just south of Bunty Station Road. Specific sites within those parks have not been identified.
Several Preservation Parks locations also are being explored.
In Liberty Park, officials said the bridge could be opened for pedestrians as part of a walking path.
"They want to expand the trails back in the woods, and there's a good possibility (the bridge) could become part of one of those trails," Bresnahan said.
If it landed in Havener Park, the bridge probably would be closed to the public, but signs would indicate its history and significance, he said.
No matter what the plan, the bridge would be temporarily deconstructed, cleaned and repaired before being moved.
In February, County Engineer Chris Bauserman said his office would determine how much financial support it could give to the cause only after a plan is presented. But the engineer's office won't contribute more than it would otherwise cost to tear down and scrap the bridge.
Liberty Township, which does not currently maintain ownership of the bridge, has no plans to financially support the project. Trustee Curt Sybert said in February the township would support the recommendation of the task force, and it's possible the township could gain ownership after the bridge is moved.
Officials might seek grants to help fund a relocation, Bresnahan said.
The bridge currently is unsafe even for pedestrians. It was closed to vehicles in 2007 after inspections revealed significant structural deterioration.
The discovery prompted the engineer's office to take action. In 2009, the road was rerouted over a new, wider bridge.
A task force convened after the county made plans this spring to seek bids for tearing down the bridge.