Bartholomew County Council members have agreed to replace a leaky roof on the only covered bridge in Bartholomew County.
Council members voted to allocate $30,500 from the county covered bridge fund to pay for most of the work to place new wood shingles on top of the bridge in Mill Race Park in Columbus.
Bartholomew County Highway Engineer Danny Hollander said he anticipates the project might cost a little more than that. Additional money would need to come from the regular county bridge fund, but the total cost won’t be known until the project is bid out later this year, he said.
Councilman Jorge Morales asked Hollander why the county had the obligation to maintain the covered bridge in a city park in downtown Columbus.
The county is responsible for all bridges that support vehicular traffic, except for those on state highways, even if they are in the city, Hollander said.
The Mill Race Park Covered Bridge is a single span Long Truss Structure, believed to be the only Long Truss Bridge in Indiana, according to the Indiana Historical Society.
It was originally built in 1840 by Adam Mason, near Brownsville in Union County, where it crossed the East Fork of the Whitewater River and was known as the Brownsville Covered Bridge.
It now crosses a pond in the park, and is 166 feet long, or 182 feet long if the overhangs are included at each end.
It was moved to Mill Race Park in 1986 after the Clifty Covered Bridge was damaged beyond repair, and reassembled over the pond, at a length now of 85 feet, or 102 feet with the overhangs, according to the history of the bridge from the state.
The bridge still carries motor vehicle traffic over the pond and is one of the most iconic and photographed areas of the park. It is used as the backdrop for senior pictures, engagement and wedding photos.
The project to replace the bridge’s roof will be a bit tricky as whoever does the work will be working over water, Hollander said.
County officials plan to coordinate the project with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department so work doesn’t conflict with any summer events planned at the park this year, he said.
Hollander said it could be the first time since the mid-1980s that roof work on the bridge is done.