The newest and perhaps most popular attraction at Hueston Woods State Park has its origins in two men — one is retired, the other was born in 1771.
The Hueston Woods Bridge, a covered bridge on Camden-College Corner Road in Preble County that spans Four Mile Creek at the western end of the park, has been open for a little less than a month and will have its ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The bridge, constructed at a cost of $1,997,500, is a brainchild of J. Stephen Simmons, who retired in February after 27 years as Preble County engineer.
He was instrumental in 2007 for enabling the county to receive most of the funding for the bridge from the Federal Highway Administration, administered through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
Hueston Woods now has Preble County’s eighth covered bridge.
“Mark Lockhart (Hueston Woods park manager) said it has immediately become the new focal point of the park, that people go there to congregate,” Simmons said.
“I thought that would be a win-win for everybody because our heritage in Preble County is covered bridges, and I figured Hueston Woods would benefit by having a new tourist attraction and it would help Preble County by bringing in people who will be lodging and buying food and gas,” he said.
One of the other eight covered bridges in Preble County, Simmons noted, is the Roberts Covered Bridge in Eaton. It was the only double-barreled bridge in Ohio, with two lanes and a truss down the middle, a separator that kind of makes it like a “double-barreled shotgun,” Simmons said.
“It has a Burr Truss design — designed by Theodore Burr (1771-1822) in the early 1800s — and it also has an arch,” Simmons said. “I wanted to continue that tradition, so the new bridge also is a Burr Truss design.”
“We now have the oldest Theodore Burr design and the newest Theodore Burr design,” he said.
The Hueston Woods Bridge also has a walkway for pedestrians.
“I really wanted mom and dad and the kids to learn about covered bridges because they’re a dying breed,” Simmons said. “It will let people see how it’s put together.”
Simmons hopes to put placards there explaining about its construction and history.
The genesis of the Hueston Woods Bridge was in 2007, according to Connie Crowell, clerk to the Board of Preble County Commissioners, “when they made a bridge inspection and saw the deterioration of the original bridge.”
The June 24 celebration, she said, should include “quite a few legislators and local dignitaries and representative from ODOT. It’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Simmons will be the master of ceremony at the ribbon cutting. He the governor’s office also will be represented, though Gov. John Kasich is not expected to attend personally.
About the bridge
95% of the construction was through federal dollars.
$1.7 million What the more traditional concrete box-beam bridge would have cost (about $200,000 less than a covered bridge).
100 years How long the covered bridge should last compared to 50 to 75 years for a concrete bridge.
Walkway It will let people see how the bridge is put together.
Source: Stephen Simmons, who retired as Preble County engineer