Problems continue to plague the little covered bridge located in front of the Cloverdale travel plaza off Interstate 70, and now the owners are divided over what to do with it.
Commissioned by the Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau in the 1990s, the replica of a real covered bridge once served as a place for tourists in the area to stop and pick up travel brochures and find out more about the area. Trouble is, no one staffs the building and up until recently, it was left unlocked for visitors to utilize.
Due to this lack of oversight, the once celebrated structure has become the repeated target of vandals and an overnight stopping point for vagrants along the interstate.
CVB Director Karla Lawless, at Tuesday night’s meeting of the county tourism board, said that since locking up the bridge a few weeks ago, someone has broken into it yet again. She checked it recently and found it had been stuffed full of trash again and that someone tore down the lights on the outside of it and smashed them.
“That’s an accident waiting to happen,” Lawless told the tourism board Tuesday night.
Board members like Barb Lane and Eric Hayman agreed.
“I think it’s a eyesore,” Lane said.
Hayman added that the wooden structure is costly to maintain and that prices will only continue to climb as the bridge gets older.
But others board members, like board President Mike Murphy, said he thought it would be a waste of a $70,000 investment to board up the bridge or tear it down.
Board members threw out several ideas for dealing with the bridge, including seeing if the owners of the new horse arena nearby would like to take ownership and have the bridged moved there. They also talked about moving the bridge to the courthouse square in Greencastle, in the empty lot next to the visitors’ bureau.
But they agreed they have no idea how much it would cost to move the bridge.
In the end, board members decided to form a committee to discuss the issue further and report back at a later time.
Meanwhile, the bridge has been locked up and will not be used by the CVB until a decision is made.
In other business, the board:
• Learned that the recent Chalk Art Bash, put on by the CVB, was a success and that it is hoped it will become an annual event.
• Learned that Lawless recently took a group of engineers from the Department of Agriculture - many of them from around the United States - on a tour of a local covered bridge. “These people were really amazed,” Lawless said, adding that she hopes to increase agritourism in the county in the next few years.
• Learned that someone has vandalized the CVB’s billboard on Stardust Road by busting out all the lights on the sign.
The tourism board meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the CVB office, located on the south side of the courthouse square in Greencastle.