Forward by the author:
When visiting the US from an outsider’s point of view, if there are two types of bridges tourists would like to see, they would be cable-stayed suspension bridges and these bridges, as shown in the picture above: the covered bridge. Even though American covered bridges go as far back as 300 years ago, we are seeing a trend of covered bridges being repopulated in places, like North Carolina, as they serve as an excellent source of revenue for the tourism industry. And one county in particular, Chatham County is going an extra step further, by bringing the importance of covered bridges to the attention of one of the five websites that is devoted to historic bridges, Historic Bridges.org. Why this website and not the other four, like the Historic Bridges of the US, Bridgemapper, Structurae.net, or even this website, the Chronicles?
This article came to my attention and therefore, I am providing you readers with an explanation of Chatham County’s quest for more tourism in the form of covered bridges….
Chatham County, North Carolina, is not know for its historic bridges, laments Sarah Burnnet, the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department for the county. “New covered bridges are popping up all over the state, drawing throngs of tourists to visit them. In Chatham County over the Rocky River, we have one of the oldest covered bridges in the state, built in 1983.” Based on a list compiled by Dale Travis, at least 35 newer covered bridges have since been built in the state.
Members of the Parks and Recreation Department feel that the reason more tourists are not drawn to their covered bridge over the Rocky River is because it is not listed on most major historic bridge publications, since those only list bridges built before 1950. Chatham County is in the tech savvy Research Triangle area of North Carolina, just south of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Burnnet laments, “If you do a Google search for historic bridges, the number one website is www.historicbridges.org
. This site does not have a single bridge in North Carolina! We want to change that. We want the site to just have one bridge. Our bridge!”
As a result, Earl Betts, a maintenance manager for the county, created special signs on the bridge. These signs simply read, “www.historicbridges.org
.” They are mounted above the historic signs reading “Five dollars fine for driving more than twelve horses mules or cattle at any one time or for leading any beast faster than a walk on across this bridge.” The county believes that when people see the new signs on the bridge, they will be inspired to submit photos to historicbridges.org
, encouraging the organization to place the bridge on the site.
Once the beautiful photos start popping up throughout the internet, people will realize how important the bridge is. Then tourists will flock to the area. The county’s hope is to eventually have enough tourists to open up a gift shop and cafe at the end of the bridge. “Maybe we can have tours someday to show the public how covered bridges were built 30 years ago.”
Chatham County also hopes to generate support for replacing the existing Chatham Church Road Bridge with a new covered bridge. The Chatham Church Road Bridge is an old one-lane metal truss bridge from 1921. “A bridge as old of that is clearly not safe to carry traffic. It is our hope that once tourists start flooding to the area to see one covered bridge, we can build a second covered bridge on Chatham Church Road,” reports county engineer Phillip Earlray. With two covered bridges close to each other and photos on the internet, Chatham County is confident that they can become the historic bridge center of North Carolina.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to wish the county officials the best of luck in their quest to make covered bridges popular again and may other counties and states consider covered bridges as an alternative form of bridge construction and a source of revenue for tourism in the future…..