Can Clarkton Bridge Be Saved?

NPS Attests To Its' Value And Significance
News & Record, Monday, September 15, 2003

"Clearly there is a future for the historic old Clarkton Bridge," says P. K. Pettus, one of the members of the Clarkton Bridge Alliance who has been pushing since spring to make that future a reality.

Pettus said the group became enthusiastic about saving the bridge when David Whitehurst of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries challenged local residents to find areas for birding and wildlife trails.

Armed with a letter from Eric DeLony, Chief Historic American Engineering Record of the National Park Service (NPS), Pettus and other members of the Alliance tonight will tell County Supervisors and Town Councilmen that the NPS attests to the value and significance of the Clarkton Bridge built in 1902. In a letter to Ms. Pettus, dated September 11, 2003, DeLony writes

    Dan Shaw, P.K. Pettus and Carl Espy were busy yesterday putting the finishing touches on a plan to save the historic Clarkton Bridge from demolition by including it as a part of a network of birding and wildlife trails.

"The bridge has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and documented to Historic American Engineering Record standards for the national collection at the Library of Congress."

DeLony writes further in his letter "To me, your proposal of adoptively reviving the bridge as part of countywide trail system, is an elegant solution'."

After going into detail about the bridge structure, DeLony says that the other camelback truss in the Lynchburg District that spanned the Staunton River in Campbell County has been demolished, which "may enhance the value of the Clarkton Bridge."

It was the April 1 meeting that immediately made residents and supporters of the bridge realize what a wonderful opportunity they would have in making the bridge a part of such trails, Pettus said. "While the bridge would be closed to vehicular traffic, it would be open for hikers and those who just want to walk across the bridge. It would offer a wonderful opportunity for those who don't want to canoe down the Staunton River to have access to the scenic river," she notes.

The bridge also lies close to such historic places as Red Hill and Staunton River Battlefield Park - both of which already attract bird watchers.

On May 19, 2003 just hours before the bridge was slated for demolition by the Virginia Department of Transportation, Alliance members were granted a 120 day reprieve to give them time to work toward saving the historic old structure. "Now we have pulled together a plan that we think works and ways that we hope to implement it," says Pettus, who along with Alliance members Carl Espy and Dan Shaw tonight will present their ideas to members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors as well as to Councilmen of South Boston and Halifax. With their support, as well as that of Charlotte County Supervisors, Alliance members plan to present their plan to Virginia Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement.

"It would be a terrible loss to have this bridge, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Properties and which will provide access to a scenic river, demolished," Pettus says.

With the help of many local supporters, who they say number over 120 people, the group has held several meetings to gain valuable insight into the opportunities and challenges associated with saving the bridge and making it a part of a network of trails and greenways.

Alliance members say they are grateful to Whitehurst, Jack Zehmer of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and to Gordon Lohr of the Revolving Fund of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities for their time and support.

They also report that Bob Munson of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) explained how communities can create and benefit from networks of trails and greenways that often include the preservation of historic transportation Structures, such as bridges and railroad depots.

Locally the group cites valuable contributions from Martha Coates, Doug and D.A. Powell, Nancy Pool, Linda Shepperd, Ted Bennett, Tom Stutts, Phyllis Shaw, Sandy and Gloria Ross, Elizabeth Overton, Sheila Bradley and Ward Burton of Halifax County; Lucretia Whitehouse, Oate Pettus, Robert Tucker, Bret, Liz and Lucy Peaden, Shane Newcombe, Marion Rockwell and Ed Early of Charlotte County and Hunter Watson and Sherry Swinson of Farmville.

They also recognize the contributions of VDOT's Joe Barkley, Carol Corker of the Southside Planning District and County Supervisors and administrators from both Charlotte and Halifax Counties.

They point out that State Senator Frank Ruff was one of the first elected leaders in the state to recognize the potential of the Birding and Wildlife Trail to bolster the rural economy. Three not-for-profit groups have also provided guidance and strong support for saving the bridge, including the Historic Staunton River Foundation, The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation.