Perry County Commissioners Hear Bridge Debate
NEW LEXINGTON – A tiny road in Thornport is receiving plenty of attention. A low bridge on Thorn Township Road 79 that spans a Thornport canal is due to be replaced, but many Thornport residents and business owners believe the bridge should be removed permanently because it blocks boat access to the canal and poses a safety threat. They say there’s easy access to the Honey Creek Road bridge over the canal. However, others say the bridge provides emergency vehicle access to Thornport homes and offers a safer alternative for pedestrians than walking down the busy Honey Creek Road.
Friday morning, the Perry County Commissioners heard arguments from both sides before considering whether the Twp Rd 79 bridge will be replaced or removed for good. The people attending the New Lexington meeting were fairly evenly divided in opinion, but most of those who spoke to the commissioners favored removing the bridge.
Heron Bay resident Tom Green told the commissioners that an ambulance crossed the 79 bridge to reach his home and removing it would present a safety issue. He said removing the bridge would also force more traffic into the busy and unusual intersection between Honey Creek and Zion roads, and SR 13. Green said the owners of the Toy Store and the Smokehouse support replacing the bridge, which the Robinwood development’s children use to cross the canal. “I don’t think any of us would want them walking on Honey Creek Road,” he said.
Richard Harris, who lives along the Thornport canal, said Heron Bay has two deep channels for Buckeye Lake boat access. Not so for those who live or work along the Thornport canal. “This bridge restricts us,” he said. “We want to enjoy the lake just like they do.”
Michael Payne owns the Rowboat Sports Grill—formerly the Bush Tavern—on the Thornport Canal and supports removing the bridge. He said the removal would help to grow the businesses along the canal. Payne also supports dredging the canal, but a letter from Buckeye Lake State Park manager Tim Waln explained that dredging is expensive, complicated, and frankly, fairly unlikely. The residents and business owners may need to hire a private dredger. “The biggest concern to our customers is they cannot get under the bridge or up the channel that has filled in with silt,” said Payne. “Only a pontoon boat or small rowboat can travel up the shallow waters.”
Resident Ron Baker said he worried about boaters hitting
their heads on the bridge as they pass beneath it. He said the bridge has cost the Buckeye Lake Marina sales. Baker said many motorists use the Twp Rd. 79 bridge as an “escape route” as they go home from the bars. He said couldn’t justify the expense of replacing the bridge when there is other access across the canal.
Perry County Engineer Kent Cannon said he has 90 percent federal funding to replace the bridge if it’s replaced soon. He said it would be seven years before he could receive more federal funding if he misses the existing cycle.
Resident Merv Bartholow said he believes the ODNR requires bridges crossing water to be four or five feet higher than the existing bridge. “It would be tragic if a child became trapped between a boat and the bridge,” he said.
Resident Michael Burnhart said traffic is increasing in the Robinwood development near the canal and removing the bridge would only worsen the problem. It would also increase traffic to the busy Honey Creek and Zion roads intersection. “That intersection is extremely dangerous,” he said.
Baker said replacing the Twp. Rd. 79 bridge with a higher walking bridge would work. “A walk bridge would be the answer,” he said.
“It’s an option,” said Perry County Commissioner Lonnie Wood. He said there is much for the commissioners to consider and the hearing will continue Friday, Nov. 20, 2:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ chambers at the Perry County Administration Building in New Lexington.