The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

September 24, 2008

The bridge in his viewfinder

Dick Blood tells story of Smolen-Gulf Bridge in his new documentary

Videographer Dick Blood didn’t have to travel far to shoot history in the making.

His Carson Road home is only three miles from the construction site of Ashtabula County’s 17th covered bridge, the Smolen-Gulf Bridge. Further, with his son knowing one of the owners of Union Industrial Contractors, general contractor for the 613-foot-long bridge, Blood often had an inside track on when construction milestones were about to occur.

From slicing through the forest with chain saws to setting the forms for the concrete piers; from raising the four spans to dedicating the completed bridge, Blood was there to capture the moments with his video cameras.

“I played it pretty much by ear,” Blood says when asked how often he visited the site. “If I noticed anything happening, I made it a point to be there.”

Blood says the tremendous job done by John Smolen, former county engineer, in rehabilitating the county’s 12 legacy bridges and building five new ones compelled him to document this bridge’s construction. He also wanted to recognize Smolen’s insightfulness – Smolen recognized that the traffic count on State Road qualified it for federal transportation grant money to the tune of $5 million.

That kind of money drew criticism from some residents. Blood hopes his video will help those critics recognize both the bridge’s tourism value and its practical function of addressing dangerous conditions on the highway.

“It’s a good investment,” Blood says.

By the time the bridge was dedicated Aug. 26, Blood had shot more than 15 hours of site-preparation and bridge-construction footage. Yet, within a couple of weeks after the bridge was dedicated, he had completed a one-hour documentary spanning more than eight years of bridge-building history.

“But what else do I have to do?” says Blood, when asked how he managed to pull off such a big project in a short time. “The frustrating thing about this is that as I get older, I don’t recall things as well and got to write down where everything is (on the tapes).”

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