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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Little covered bridge outlives its welcome

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jessica Hubbard, with escort Josh Peterman, won the crown of homecoming queen Friday night at North Putnam High School's win against Monrovia.
When Putnam County tourism officials decided a little more than 10 years ago to build a mock covered bridge at the Cloverdale exit of I-70, they did so with the intention of providing a welcome center where travelers could stop to pick up information on the local area.

What they didn't count on was that they would attract a slew of other people who had intentions other than to see what the area offers in the way of tourist attractions.

At Tuesday night's meeting of the tourism board, members learned that the mock bridge, located next to the Cloverdale travel plaza, has become an ideal spot for hitchhikers looking for a free place to stay at night.

And that's not all that has taken place there.

One of the tourism board members who lives at Cloverdale, Eric Hayman, said he found a man bathing in the little pond underneath the bridge one time.

CVB Director Karla Lawless said a semi-tractor trailer driver recently tampered with the electrical wiring that supplies power to the bridge's heating and air-conditioning system and was using it to service his semi. He left the wires hanging down, which Lawless said was a hazard to anyone who entered the bridge unknowingly.

She also said vandals have continually smashed eggs on the inside of the bridge, shot it with paint ball guns and have piled it full of trash.

"It's just an albatross," she said.

Upset by the news, tourism board members decided they'd had enough and voted to remove the travel brochures and seal off the inside of the bridge completely.

Lawless said she already has travel brochures in the nearby truck stop and other businesses in the area, so she didn't feel the bureau was losing anything by closing down the welcome center.

It was suggested that the bureau could pay to have the bridge moved to Greencastle or another area in Cloverdale, but board members didn't seem to like that idea.

"Where and what are we willing to spend? That's the bottom line," Hayman said.

Board member Dave Jackman added that he felt the bureau needed to maintain a presence at the interstate if it was going to continue to attract tourists to the area.

All agreed the bridge has become an eyesore from within and without and that it doesn't represent the county well to the general public. The bridge has remained open in the past without any staffing.

Lawless said the landscaping around the bridge has also become overgrown and full of weeds. Tourism officials hope that once they have the bridge sealed off, they can focus on the landscaping.

Board members discussed filling in the pond with rocks and having a local group volunteer their time to clean up the landscaping so it looks nicer to the public.

"It's a monkey on our backs right now," Lawless said.

Meanwhile, the tourism board heard a report from Dr. Warren Macy with the Putnam County Museum.

Macy asked the CVB to consider upping its annual support of the museum from its current level of $1,000 to $5,000 per year and to include the museum on the CVB's website as a tourist attraction.

The only request that board members agreed to on Tuesday night was to hold their next meeting at the museum. That meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23.

In other business, the board:

* Was reminded of the CVB-sponsored Chalk Art Bash, scheduled for this Saturday on the courthouse square.

* Learned that a recent group of married couples from Illinois traveled to Cataract Falls to renew their vows on the covered bridge. Lawless said the trip was a success.

* Discussed sending a care package to a local soldier serving in Iraq. Lawless asked for suggestions of a soldier who would receive this package at Christmas. She is asking the public to donate items for the purpose.

The tourism board meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month.

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