Blenheim's covered bridge Catch-22
2/23/12 - 3:32 pm
Above: A YouTube video made in tribute to the destroyed Old Blenheim Bridge, destroyed on August 28, 2011 by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.
Poor Blenheim. In order to get federal money to rebuild its bridge, the town needs to be on the National Register of Historic Places. But in order to be on the register, Blenheim needs...yep, a bridge.
The town of Blenheim lost its biggest claim to fame in last year's floods: The 169-year-old Old Blenheim Bridge, which at 210 feet had the largest span of any single-span covered bridge in the world.
Now, according to several recent news accounts, the spot where the Old Blenheim Bridge once stood may lose its designation as a national historic landmark. CBS 6 Albany reports:
Last month, the parks department and the department of the interior have contacted the town, threatening to remove the bridge from all three lists.
“You can stay on the list if you have 51 percent of the original structure,” said [Schoharie County historian Carle] Kopecky.
Almost 6 months later they're still recovering pieces of the bridge. Donald Airey, the Long Term Recovery Chair, told CBS that if the town fails to recover the 51 percent they will lose more than historical recognition.
“There is money that can be available for flood mitigation, infrastructure protection, that money can be used to protect the town,” said Donald Airey.
To make matters worse, an unnamed looter is holding pieces of the bridge hostage, according to the Schoharie Times-Journal:
Many people have come forward to turn over pieces of the bridge found on their property but there is one person who has some major timbers from the span that has refused to turn it over and said he will sell the pieces for profit.
This person, she said, should not be allowed to "profit off the misery of our county," [former supervisor Gail] Shaffer said.
County attorney Michael West said he would be aggressive in the recovery in the pieces of the bridge.
The Times-Journal reports that the town is seeking to gather as many pieces of the original bridge as possible, in an effort to build a replica on the site. But to get grants for rebuilding the bridge, Shaffer says, the town needs to keep the historical designation.
Since its destruction last August, the Old Blenheim Bridge has found a new life on Facebook, where a local historian has created a page for the site.
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