Striking New Covered Bridge Wins Governor’s Award

geauga-covered-bridge_jim_marquardtGeauga Park District’s new 70-foot-long Pratt Truss-style covered bridge is the winner of the 2013 Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation, presented by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) at its annual conference.

With installation in the summer of 2013, and public access expected along the future south portion of The Maple Highlands Trail in 2014, the east branch of the Cuyahoga River covered bridge promises to connect communities and four Geauga parks, enhance Geauga tourism, and improve safety conditions for Amish commuters.

“It’s tough to imagine a project which includes so many important elements,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. “This bridge teaches history, enhances safety, connects parks and communities, attracts tourists and gets people outdoors. We are proud to present the award to Geauga Park District.”

Designed by Dennis Bowman and Kurt Gowins of Smolen Engineering and built by Geauga Park District’s construction crew – Steve George, construction supervisor; Tom Salo, project foreman; and Isaiah Shipman, construction technician – the pedestrian covered bridge features one-of-a-kind architectural details which were challenging to construct.

“Of the 200-plus bridges we’ve designed throughout Ohio, this one may be the most striking in appearance,” said John Smolen P.E. “People say the bridge makes them instantly smile, and nothing is better than that.”

“It is very gratifying to be recognized among your peers, for the skill set is takes in the trades to accomplish a project of that magnitude,” said Interim Deputy Director John Oros, who supervised the project. “We’re being recognized right alongside Cleveland Metroparks, Lake Metroparks and all the recreation departments in the state. What an honor.”

This bridge will help extend The Maple Highlands Trail a total of 20 miles, allowing users to travel from Colburn Road at the north end of the county all the way to Reeves Road in Parkman Township in the south.

Geauga County Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell offered a hearty congratulations to all Geauga Park District staff who contributed to the project, and specifically said, “Special thanks go out to Geauga Park District’s construction crew.”

In addition to a crystal trophy, Geauga Park District was presented with a proclamation from Ohio Governor John Kasich and a $500 check to the Geauga Park District Foundation. The award winner was announced, and award was presented, at the OPRA Annual Awards Dinner on February 4 at the Kalahari Convention Center in Sandusky.

Construction on Geauga’s new covered bridge began in April 2012 and concluded in August 2013. It is the county’s second covered bridge to be registered with the Ohio Historic Bridge Association; the first, the Howe Truss-style Tare Creek Bridge erected in 2004, is also along this soon-to-be-open stretch of The Maple Highlands Trail.

The Governor’s Award was established in 2010 to recognize the one park and recreation program or project that has had the most significant impact on quality of life in the preceding year.

All 16 OPRA program and project winners qualified to win the 2013 “best in show” Governor’s Award. “Placing first among 16 winning projects, as well as first in the Facility (Up to $2,500,000) category among six other entries there, really adds weight to the Governor’s Award,” Oros added.

Officials from six statewide organizations formed the voting panel, including the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Homebuilders Association, the Ohio Municipal League, the Ohio State Parks and the Ohio Township Association.