SUGAR GROVE, Ohio (WCMH) — Two covered bridges belonging to Fairfield County Parks are being salvaged due to disrepair and weathering.

The May Hummel Bridge and Shade Bridge were added to the county’s covered bridges portfolio in 2015 when the parks department purchased the land where they sat. Initially, the county planned to use them as centerpieces for a new Misty Valley Park, which has yet to open.

Shade Covered Bridge

(Photo provided by the Fairfield County Parks District)

“I was very disappointed,” said William Pierson. “[They] were preserved by my father [40] years ago and have fallen down.”

In the early 80s, William Pierson and Connie Downour’s dad obtained the two bridges to restore them.

“We were all behind him 100 percent. He had the support of his family,” Downour said.

Basically, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and siblings were all in Sugar Grove helping their father rebuild these bridges. The bridges became part of the family.

“For 40 years, we had reunions, family picnics, church groups down here,” Downour said. “Lots of memories.”

When they learned the bridges were not going to be revitalized, sadness and disbelief set in on the brother and sister.

Covered Bridges in Use

In a recent blog post by the parks department, they wrote:

The bad news is Storm Landon hit the area hard last month (February 3-5).  Heavy ice and snow inflicted irreparable damage to Shade Covered Bridge.  On March 6, it fully collapsed.  FCPD staff and members of Fairfield County Board of Park Commissioners discussed several options.  A request for sealed bids to remove the structures has been published.  It is our hope parts of the bridges will be used elsewhere in Fairfield County. 

Fairfield County Park District

The county had the most bridges in the state with 17 until these two fell. According to the park district, the money in the budget had to go to other projects already underway.

Specialized skills are needed to properly repair old covered bridges. Structures that are open to the public must meet standards stricter than those on private properties. The cost of renovating a bridge like the Shade to those standards is about half of our annual budget! We were obligated to finish construction of Fetter-Hood Barn and to budget money for a new ADA-compatible playground and the soon-to-be-built permanent restroom at Smeck Park (Spring-Summer 2022). Another commitment was to get Mambourg Park construction underway – an entry road, parking lots, electric and gas services, development of trails, and renovation of the nature center.  This year, a picnic shelter will be built there and permanent wayfinding signs for the trails installed.  Repairs to Shade and Hummel had to wait.

Fairfield County Park District

For Pierson and Downour, they hoped the bridges would be a legacy from their father to the people in Fairfield County. What they are hoping now is that people will at least take a moment and appreciate that what their father accomplished was out of kindness and determination.

Their father documented his journey of restoring the bridges in a book entitled ” If It Falls To The Left, Jump To The Right.” You can read it here: