The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

August 26, 2008

Nation’s longest covered bridge dedicated, named in ceremony

Like the structure it identifies, the name of the longest covered bridge in the nation is lengthy: Smolen-Gulf Bridge, Ashtabula County Highway 25.

The new covered bridge, No. 17 for Ashtabula County, was dedicated and named Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony blessed with perfect weather and a large crowd, about 1,500 according to Betty Morrison, executive director of the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival Committee, a co-sponsor of the dedication.

“This is a great day for Ashtabula County,” Morrison told the crowd, which gathered at the southeast end of the bridge in Plymouth Township. “This bridge is for you; it belongs to you, and we want you to enjoy it.”

Enjoy it they did. After 40 minutes of speeches and the official naming, a cross-cut saw was turned over to three pairs of local officials who took turns taking a chunk off a log; the bridge was opened to pedestrians, who walked the 613 feet to the Ashtabula Township side on the bridge deck and pedestrian walkways.

“I think it’s great,” said Mike Wood, whose son, Noah Richard Wood, was probably the youngest person to attend the opening: 6 days old. Noah, his mother Amy and father attended the event after reading about it in the newspaper that morning, although Mike has watched the bridge take shape as he travels Route 11 to work every day.

The bridge took two years to build, although it was first conceived back in 1995, when John Smolen was Ashtabula County engineer. Smolen, whom Betty Morrison calls “Mr. Covered Bridge,” envisioned straightening the approach to the dangerous gulf on State Road and building a covered bridge across the resulting 600-foot-long gap.

“John always had a dedication to preservation of covered bridges,” said Tim Martin, Ashtabula County engineer. “He had the foresight of understanding what bridges mean to the future of the county.”

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