Saturday, January 09, 1999

Clermont Co. moving creek to save bridge

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Clermont County engineer Carl Hartman stands along the bank of Stonelick Creek, which is being redirected to help presevre the 1878 covered bridge in the background.
(Michael Snyder photo)

| ZOOM |
        STONELICK TOWNSHIP — Clermont County Engineer Carl Hartman is changing the course of nature to save the county's only remaining covered bridge, across Stonelick Creek.

        Over years, the meandering creek channel has inched closer and closer to the west stone abutment of the red, 140-foot span built in 1878 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

        “We got started on addressing our concerns about this after we had heavy rains in May 1996,” Mr. Hartman said. “The bridge abutment was in danger of being undermined, and there were some trees along the bank that were being eroded and in danger of falling on the bridge or into the creek.

        “Heavy rains could have washed (fallen) trees and debris under the bridge and taken it out,” he said. “We decided we had to do something, and (then) we learned about a new stream revertment process.”

        The idea was developed by George Palmiter, a Michigan engineer who, with a partner, Steve Phillips, were consultants on the Stonelick project. The process uses natural mate rials — rocks, tree stumps, limbs and dirt — to revert streams to their original course and create a natural appearance, instead of using concrete abutments and retaining walls.

        Over time, Stonelick Creek has carried sediment to the east side of the stream and, gradually, the deposits built up to change the creek's course to the west.

        The shoring materials are brought in from other county projects such as road improvements, and are used to replace and reinforce the eroded stream banks. Some of the material is anchored into stable stream banks by metal cables, Mr. Hartman said.

        “We want to retain the pristine atmosphere of the Stonelick Valley and the setting of the bridge,” Mr. Hartman said.

        The $200,000 project is being paid for by a $120,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and $80,000 from the county. About two weeks remain on the work, which will be completed as weather permits, Mr. Hartman said.

        Once the erosion is repaired, workers will transplant some willow trees from the east shoreline to the restored west side. Willows, with extensive root systems, will help reduce future erosion of the restored stream banks and, as they grow, create a new natural stream bank.

        The project extends about 100 yards north of the bridge — on Stonelick-Williams Corner Road, about a mile north of U.S. 50 — and ends a short distance south of it.

        Cincinnati attorney Cliff Craig and his wife, Linda, who own the property along the stream and whose home is on the west side of it, gave the county permission to complete the project on their land.

        “This is a natural way of trying to deal with the problem,” Mr. Craig said. “Concrete would be very ugly. This method will retain the scenic beauty of the stream, the bridge and the Stonelick Valley.”

        Cindy Johnson, president of the Clermont County Historical Society, said: “It would be just a tremendous loss if that bridge were to be undermined and lost. Once something like that is gone, it is gone forever.”

        Ms. Johnson said some of the bridge has been restored after being damaged several times. A 7-ton garbage truck went through the wooden bridge floor in 1983. Fire damaged it in 1991, and vandals removed bridge siding in 1997 and threw it in the creek.

        However, Ms. Johnson said much of the beam work and other parts of the span are original.

        “There used to be two other covered bridges on the same road. Now this is the last one left in the county,” she said. “A lot of its neighbors look after it. People come to see it all of the time.”


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