Officials from the Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau, owners of the replica bridge located outside the Cloverdale Travel Plaza, voted recently to leave the bridge in place and pay someone to take care of the maintenance.
Originally built to serve as a welcome center for travelers along Interstate 70 at Cloverdale, the building has become more of a target of numerous vandals and an overnight stopping point for vagrants along the interstate. Each time there are problems, CVB officials are left to pick up the pieces.
The tourism board has discussed the bridge numerous times in the last several months and members have been divided on whether to move the bridge to another location, leave it where it is or get rid of it altogether. Since then, other groups in the county have come forward and offering to take ownership of the bridge. CVB officials have shown no interest in accepting those offers though.
Recently, the CVB board decided that the bridge should be permanently sealed up and the outside should be used as a billboard to advertise tourism in Putnam County.
Board members also suggested painting a covered bridge map on the sides of the bridge and to cover them with clear plastic panels to prevent vandals from defacing the maps.
Currently the bridge contains travel brochures and until recently, the doors were unlocked to allow people to go inside. However, the building was misused and vandalized, forcing CVB officials to lock it up.
Board members rejected the idea of moving the bridge to the empty lot next to the CVB office, on the south side of the courthouse square, to use for special events.
They decided the bridge should stay in Cloverdale where it would still be seen by tourists. Lawless said she would check on moving the travel brochures to the nearby travel plaza.
Board members agreed to investigate having a professional landscape company mow the grass, trim the shrubs and otherwise maintain the outside of the bridge, so CVB officials wouldn't have to worry about its maintenance anymore.
Meanwhile, CVB officials are celebrating a record year of revenues. Lawless said the 2007 revenues topped out at $233,000.
"This was the largest year this bureau has ever had," Lawless said.
The CVB is funded solely by the Innkeeper's Tax, which is money hotels collect from guests who stay there. There are 14 such hotels, motels and inns in Putnam County that the CVB draws from.
In other business, the tourism board:
* Approved leasing a new vehicle for the CVB. It is a three-year lease and will cost the CVB about $15,000.
* Learned that the CVB hosted a recent "hotel caucus" to discuss tourism in Putnam County. Lawless said only a handful of representatives from local hotels attended, but the meeting went well. They discussed various projects, including the Crossroads Horse Arena under construction outside of Cloverdale. The caucus was meant as an informative session to let the hotels know what the area has to offer.
* Learned that the CVB is working to get new, state-issued, brown signs placed along Interstate 70 to attract tourists.
* Learned that 15 motorcoach tours have been booked to come to the county in 2008, including groups from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, California and Kentucky.
* Learned that Greencastle made "Midwest Living" magazine's 2008 list of top 100 cities to visit. No other details were available at this week's meeting, but Lawless said the magazine is set to come out in a couple of months.