120-Day Reprieve Could Equal 100 Years
Alliance Will Present Plan
To Supes Tonight
September 15, 2003
100 Year Future — Reprieve triggers plan for 100-year future for Clarkton Bridge linking Charlotte and Halifax counties across the Staunton River.
A 120-day demolition reprieve for historic Clarkton Bridge
may not only have saved the structure but could create a
bold new tourism destination along the Staunton River.
The Clarkton Bridge Alliance will present its plan for saving
the bridge during the 6 p.m. meeting of the Board of Supervisors
tonight at Mary Bethune.
On May 19, less than 36 hours before bids for demolition
of historic Clarkton Bridge were opened, Virginia Secretary
of Transportation Whitt Clement granted a 120-day demolition
That reprieve ends September 19.
"What we've outlined is how Clarkton Bridge can be
used for another century by being incorporated into a regional
network of trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding,"
said P.K. Pettus, one of the driving forces to save the
bridge and a member of the Clarkton Bridge Alliance.
"I think the preponderance of evidence and the acknowledgment
from department heads and experts in the field of historic
preservation say it is an incredible opportunity,"
said Carl Espy, an Alliance member. "It should not
Supporting the Alliance's efforts is Gordon Lohr, director
of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities,
the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation and the Ward Burton
"In recent years we have been working hard to preserve
the view that Mr. Henry enjoyed 200 years ago when he called
this area 'one of the garden spots of the world.'
"We are expanding our interpretation of the relationship
of Henry's house and plantation with the Staunton River
and the road between Charlotte and Halifax.
"That road crossed at the ferry Henry operated here
in the 1790s, which was a direct forerunner of the historic
1901 Clarkton Bridge," wrote John Kukla, executive
vice president of PHMF.
"As your report ably shows, preserving this bridge
can play an important role as a catalyst for protecting
our heritage and environment and for low-impact economic
benefits in the years ahead."
"The APVA, with its long history of preservation in
Virginia has taken a serious look at the Clarkton Bridge
and has concluded that it is a structure worthy of preservation,"
Lohr said in endorsement of the project.
"It is an asset that we should not destroy without
every consideration of its potential use," he added.
The Burton Wildlife Foundation is also backing the Alliance's
efforts, adding another perspective.
Jerry Craig, executive director of the Foundation, said
that preserving the bridge "will tie in with the Virginia
Birding and Wildlife Trail, the Greenway and so many other
activities in Southside Virginia.
"Whether visitors and local citizens want to hike,
bike or participate in 'watchable wildlife' activities,
the Clarkton Bridge will serve as an integral part of historic
Virginia," he wrote.
"For the plan to become reality, a number of hurdles
must be jumped. Our hope is that after reviewing our plan,
Secretary. Clement will be confident enough to say demolition
should be postponed," Pettus said yesterday.
Two Images of Summer
What sparked the effort to save Clarkton bridge was the
April 1 presentation in Keysville by David Whitehurst of
the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on the Virginia
Birding and Wildlife Trail, Pettus recalled.
"It challenged local residents to nominate birding
sites, and Clarkton Bridge was unanimously named,"
Instead of the state constructing presentation decks, Pettus
said Clarkton Bridge, a 673-foot long bridge, is approximately
10,000 square feet of bird watching platform over a scenic
The bridge is also easily adaptable for handicap access.
"People of all ages can enjoy the sights and sounds
of the Staunton River," she said. "It expands
access to a diverse population."
"We've come up with a strong plan of how this fits
into a large vision for recreational planning, heritage
and nature tourism in South Virginia."
The Clarkton Bridge Plan
The Alliance's immediate goal is to prevent the destruction
of the bridge, with a shared goal of relieving VDOT of the
responsibility for the property as soon as possible.
A plan for public ownership, with a back-up private sector
option, is part of the package expected to be presented
to Secretary Clement.
The Clarkton Bridge Alliance's spokesmen include Pettus,
Espy and Halifax resident Dan Shaw.
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