Staunton River Tour
Halifax County, Virginia
Clarkton Bridge Granted 120-Day
Reprieve From Demolition
June 4, 2003
The Clarkton Bridge Demolition versus Preservation
saga has taken an interesting twist, with potential tourism development
pivotal in finding a reason for VA Dept of Transportation Secretary
Witt Clement to grant a 120 day reprieve from imminent demolition
of the bridge.
Thanks to the vigilance of Charlotte County residents, including
P.K. Pettus and many others who founded the grassroots organization
Friends of the Staunton River, citizens from both counties are
now rallying around the opportunity to preserve the historic structure
as a bridge for future economic development.
The potential adaptive reuse of the National Historic Register
eligible structure include: provide a destination for Charlotte/Halifax
County and the Central Virginia Birding Trail as a pedestrian
bridge and access point to a "blueway" (a canoeing trail
system which would not encumber private land) along the Scenic
Staunton River at the Charlotte County boat landing.
Ms. Pettus, a native of Keysville, now serves as a consultant
for Philanthropic Organizations, and is assisting Loudon County
in its historic preservation and heritage tourism planning.
"The effort to save Clarkton Bridge is an outcome of a meeting
I hosted in Keysville on April 1 to discuss possible stops in
Charlotte County for a driving loop on the Virginia Birding and
Wildlife Trail," she said.
"Fifty four people attended that meeting and another 21 called
me later to describe their interest in the trail. Many people
suggested the Clarkton Bridge as a stop for the birding and wildlife
trail," she added.
After contacting Charlotte County supervisor Haywood Hamlet, she
learned that demolition was imminent. Hamlet had long endorsed
efforts to save the bridge.
"He was glad to hear that the birding trail provided a new
reason to save it and encouraged my efforts see if there might
be something we could do," she said.
In his e-mail response to the Pettus letter dated May 19, Secretary
Clement granted the 120 secession with the following proviso:
"It must be clearly understood that whatever proposal or
potential partnership that you have in mind or that you might
craft must be based on the fact that VDOT not have any future
liability or responsibility-legal, financial or otherwise- of
any kind as to the continued existence of the bridge."
Halifax County Bridge supporters are marshalling the troops back
to the banks of the Staunton River.
Douglas Powell, along with Agricultural Director Linda Wallace,
assisted private landowners in Halifax with nominating VA Birding
Trail sites last fall as well as identifying public venues at
area State Parks.
Powell, who was instrumental in establishment of the Wilson Kautz
Virginia Civil War Trail marker across from the Halifax Courthouse
and War Memorial, also represents Halifax County on Virginia's
Retreat, the Southside Virginia tourism consortium.
Recently Powell hosted a gathering of local supporters to develop
a successful strategy to secure the bridge while the feasibility
of a new use can be studied."It can be a key site for ecotourism
in our county and in Charlotte County," Powell told the bridge
For the next 30 days, volunteers in Halifax and Charlotte counties
will network with local participants and elected representatives
in addition to researching successful joint private/public ventures
throughout the country which have adapted historic truss bridges
for pedestrian as tourism destinations.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has an engineering
department solely dedicated to stabilization and reuse of historic
bridges and, according to Pettus, they are in contact with her
Dan Shaw, who serves on the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce
Tourism Advisory Board representing the Town of Halifax, has digitized
the Clarkton Bridge site in addition to dozens of driving tours,
historic homes and locations throughout the county.
Town of Halifax Planner Carl Espy sees the tremendous potential
for linking the Prizery Welcome Center and the Halifax Courthouse.
both in the center of Downtown revitalization activity, as the
logical springboards for county wide tourism.
"Dan's efforts to host website virtual tours' throughout
the county will play an important role in marketing the area's
historic, cultural, scenic and natural assets to the world,"
Espy speculated. "Also his interactive map will prove to
be a commanding exhibit of how many of our tourism-related activities
would serve the Clarkton Bridge preservation cause in economic
terms, generating dollars for the community," he added.
To view the Halifax County Virtual Tour map type
or go the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce site @ http://www.halifaxchamber.net/
Virginia Tourism Corporation's new President & CEO, Alisa
Bailey will be hosting a brief "Meet VTC" gathering
at Berry Hill Conference Center on Wednesday, June 4 at 3:00 PM
in Classroom C.
The meeting is part of a tourism tour through Central Virginia,
including the Town's of Halifax and South Boston, and has been
coordinated by Wirt Shapard Confroy, Halifax County native and
Director of VTC's Electronic Marketing division.
So far, a determined group of citizens in Charlotte and Halifax
have illustrated to state authorities how the historic structure
will serve as a bridge to a brighter economic future.
By preserving & adapting the past, Charlotte/Halifax Counties
can build upon their under-utilized historic infrastructure, connecting
the region with some of the fastest growing economic sectors in
the state, including heritage tourism, outdoor recreation &
nature excursions (birding, biking, boating, fishing, hiking,
& horseback) and agri-tourism (visiting and working on family
The next test will be finding a suitable interim owner to relieve
the Department of Transportation of its liability and expense.
Local preservationists will cross that bridge.
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