Those hoping to keep the historic Orange Road Bridge in its original location spanning the Olentangy River could face setbacks after new legal restrictions surfaced this week.

Those hoping to keep the historic Orange Road Bridge in its original location spanning the Olentangy River could face setbacks after new legal restrictions surfaced this week.

Members of a volunteer task force have considered repairing the structurally unsound bridge and moving it to a local park, though many hope to leave it in its current, historically accurate location.

Resident Ellen Hardymon, who owns land just north of the new bridge installed in 2009, addressed the Liberty Township Board of Trustees at its meeting Monday, July 23.

Hardymon said she relinquished a portion of her land to Delaware County to construct the new bridge only after the county agreed the land around the old bridge would not be used as park space in the future.

As part of the negotiations, the county agreed the surrounding land would not be used for parking, picnicking, fishing or other pedestrian activities, she said.

While the revelation doesn't preclude interested parties from repairing the unstable bridge and leaving it in its current location, it means it would be difficult to make the bridge accessible for pedestrian use, educational or otherwise.

Task force members hope to turn the bridge, which was built in 1898 and survived the flood of 1913, into an outdoor "mus-eum," with signs indicating its history and significance.

Moving the bridge to a local park would benefit everyone, Hardymon said. "I think it would be a good thing to position it where a lot of people would see it, and right now I don't think it's in a place where anybody can see it," she said.

Trustee Curt Sybert, who initially expressed interest in preserving the bridge where it stands, said the news could be a "game-changer."

"If you're going to spend the money, you ought to put it in a place where people can enjoy it," he said.

The task force already was aware of the issue, and member Jim Bresnahan said it was a major factor in the group's choice to investigate alternate locations.

Hardymon said residents already park on her land without permission to visit the bridge and even step over barricades blocking the structure to fish, frequently leaving trash behind.

She said the bridge is "unfortunately coming and going to nowhere," but Bresnahan disagreed with the sentiment.

"It's a bridge to the past and a bridge to the future," he said.

Alternate sites being considered include Liberty Park, where the bridge could be restored and used as part of a trail. Havener Park and Big Run Preserve also are being considered.

The task force completed its investigation of ways to preserve the bridge this month. It was ordered to be moved, repaired or destroyed by the county in 2009 after it was found to have significant structural deterioration.

That year, traffic was rerouted over the new, wider bridge.

It is up to the township, in partnership with the Delaware County Engineer's Office, to decide what to do with the structure, though Bresnahan said he and other volunteers will continue to work on the project.

Regardless of where the bridge ultimately ends up, it must first be disassembled and repaired.That cost will be covered by the engineer's office, and grants will be sought to cover the cost of reassembly.