By JOSELYN KING
Ohio's "Bicentennial Bridge" is now on the map and marked forever in
The Ohio Historical Society on Wednesday unveiled the official marker
honoring the 1828 Blaine Bridge - the same span once traveled by pioneers as
they headed west. As the marker states, the bridge previously was marked for
demolition before being saved in 1999.
"We are now bookmarked in history, and we don't want to become a
footnote," said Sue Douglass of the Blaine Bridge Community Preservation
Project. "We don't want the wording on the marker to be changed to, 'There
once was a bridge at this site....'"
"We've found our place in history, and we don't want to lose it."
Glenn Harper of the Ohio Historical Society remembered standing at the
bridge in 1999 and "seeing a large gap in its western portion." He told the
crowd gathered at the bridge that it "hardly seemed possible" that so much
progress had happened to the structure since that time.
"But the bridge still needs $1.2 million in repairs," Harper said. "And
the area around it still needs to be developed at a cost of much more.
"We need the dedication of individuals and businesses to dedicate time
and money to the project."
The Blaine Bridge is considered one of the most historically and
architecturally significant structures in the state. The structure is
345-feet long and constructed of sandstone. It is an "S-shaped" bridge that
spans three arches.
Plans call for the structure and the area surrounding it to be
renovated as a park and tourist area, and there are no plans for the bridge
to be once again accessible to vehicle traffic. The cost to do all
necessary work at the site has been estimated at $1.6 million.
Nichola Moretti of the Ohio Bicentennial Committee told the crowd that
when planning this year's bicentennial events in Belmont County there were
two people she always looked to - Douglass and Belmont County Tourism
Director Eugene "Doc" Householder.
Belmont County commissioners Ryan E. "Rick" Olexo and Mark Thomas
presented Douglass with a proclamation proclaiming July 9, 2003 "Blaine
Bridge Day" in Belmont County.
Ohio Rep. Charles Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, also commended Douglass'
efforts to save and commemorate the Blaine Bridge.
"It was a diamond never polished or shined until (Douglass) took up the
cause," he said.
Householder said he and his tourism council now are anxiously awaiting
the completion of the bridge renovation and its redevelopment as a park
"We're just standing by and waiting," he said. "You finish it, and
we'll bring the people."
The unveiling of the historical marker was done by three generations of
the Kitzmiller family, who have lived on the property neighboring the bridge
for 38 years.
Oliver Kitzmiller said he was not overly concerned about the area
becoming a tourist destination.
"We've put up with it (people and traffic) before," he said.