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Saving Clarkton Bridge
State Agencies Join In Effort To Preserve Treasure From Southside Virginia's Past

Unanimously supporting a resolution to take a section of Route 620 near historic Clarkton Bridge out of the Secondary Highway System, supervisors took another step Monday night in "the multistep process" to save the bridge linking Halifax and Charlotte counties.

VDOT seeks to cease ownership of Clarkton Bridge by March 15, and discontinue jurisdiction over right of way for a section of Route 620.

Preservationists hope to open the bridge to bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
That plan fits with a developing Halifax County tourism effort promoting bike, equestrian and pedestrian trails.

Cost estimates to preserve and adapt the bridge for recreational use have also decreased since first explored.

Clarkton Bridge Alliance spokesman P.K. Pettus said that VDOT estimated in their report that it would cost roughly $200,000 to demolish the bridge. VDOT estimates repair to its decking and a support pier at approximately $218,000.

She said VDOT will make demolition funds available to the new bridge owner for these costs and support TEA-21 grant application.

Improvements to the bridge to carry light maintenance vehicles and remove lead paint could increase the total to more than $1 million, according to the VDOT report by engineers Wallace T. McKeel Jr. and Jose P. Gomez of the Va. Transportation Research Council.

The steps could be phased over time.
Pettus also told supervisors that APVA Preservation Virginia has agreed to interim ownership of the bridge until a permanent owner is found, if key conditions are met.

The APVA Board is scheduled to meet later this month.

Identifying a long-term owner of the bridge is one condition, and the Alliance suggests permanent ownership under a multi-jurisdictional parks and recreation authority.

The bridge crosses the Staunton River and is located near Staunton River Battlefield State Park, which claims land and operates facilities in both Charlotte and Halifax counties.

"It is not over," said Pettus yesterday of the fight to preserve the bridge. "But working together we can sit down and figure a way over the hurdles.

"The Clarkton Bridge Alliance and VDOT are working together as partners toward two shared goals," Pettus said following the meeting.

"The first is saving Clarkton Bridge, and the second implementing a plan that will make that happen."

VDOT was described by Pettus as being "resourceful, gracious and imaginative" in the preservation effort.

Recent Development

In October, Secretary of Natural Resources Tayloe Murphy convened a meeting to explore options for preserving Clarkton Bridge.

Participants included Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement, who was described Monday night as the first "to give the bridge a stay of execution," and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Matt Erskine.

Also attending were representatives of the Departments of Historic Resources, Conservation and Recreation, Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Tourism Corporation, local governments of Charlotte and Halifax, non-for-profit organizations, including Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, Historic Staunton River Foundation, APVA Preservation Virginia and Clarkton Bridge Alliance.

The Alliance spokesman said that following the meeting VDOT undertook a new study regarding costs of preserving the bridge for non-vehicular use.

Clarkton Bridge Alliance researched prospects for a regional parks and recreation authority and steps needed to transfer ownership.

Halifax County Alliance members attending the Monday night meeting included Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy IV, Douglas Powell, Martha Coates, Dan Shaw and Tom and Edith Stutts. Also attending the Monday night session were two Charlotte County supervisors, Haywood Hamlett and Dr. Nancy Carwile.