The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

May 9, 2009

Benetka Road has distinctive redwood siding

In an era when youngsters played outdoors and having fun consumed more human calories than foreign oil, Sheffield Township’s Benetka Road hill provided an ideal spot for sled riding.

A pair of well maintained runners and unsalted road surface practically ensured that the sled would make it to the covered bridge, a cherished landmark in the community.

“That was our sledding hill in the winter and our swimming hole in the summer,” says Tim Wing, who grew up on a farm just south of the bridge and owns the flats around it.

“It was part of our lives growing up,” Wing continues. “We swam in the swimming hole just east of the bridge every summer from May until September. The bridge was always there above us. We camped out under the approaches with the spiders. It was part of our lives.”

Thanks to aggressive road maintenance, it is nearly impossible to find the long, steep stretch covered with enough snow and ice to make a sledding attempt worth the effort. And in our sanitized world, youngsters do most of their swimming in backyard pools or chlorinated public venues. But the bridge remains, surrounded by cornfields and forest, a quaint time tunnel to Tim Wing’s childhood, and that of his ancestors, as well.

An 87-year-old Sheffield Township resident who did not want to be identified shares the history of this area, as it was related to him by his grandfather and others. He said that, at one time, the flats around the bridge was known as Clark’s Mill, so named for the large grist mill that stood on the south side of the bridge. A dam upstream confined the Ashtabula River for a long distance.

This mill burned at an unknown date prior to the resident’s arrival on the scene.

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