By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted Feb. 29 to support the rebuilding of the Bob White Covered Bridge, as long as no county taxpayer funds are used for the project.
The covered bridge, one of two historic covered bridges in the county, was destroyed by floodwaters on Sept. 29.
Bert Hatcher of the Smith River District brought up the topic during the public comment period. He said he moved to this area from Northern Virginia in 2013, and lives on Elamsville Road, between the two covered bridges.
When friends come to visit, they want to see the bridges and the Moonshine Express in Franklin County, Hatcher said.
He said he believes in maintaining and preserving things with historic significance, and in this case, building a new bridge.
“People say it won’t be the same,” Hatcher said. “No, I think it will be better.” He said some grant money is available and lumber will be donated, and some remnants of the old bridge can be used in some form.
“I believe it will help tourism,” Hatcher said.
Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris made a motion to adopt a resolution to rebuild the bridge, which was seconded by Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss and passed unanimously.
Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce said he could support the project as long as it’s done with private funds. “I couldn’t justify using tax money,” he said.
The resolution states that floodwaters destroyed the bridge last September, “resulting in the total loss of the structure,” and that “the communities from each district both young and old are deeply saddened by the loss of an invaluable part of our heritage.”
The document says that “the community has come together to raise funds and materials to rebuild, showing the strong desire and motivation to see the bridge in place once again,” and that the board of supervisors supports the rebuilding project.
The Woolwine Covered Bridge Committee has held several fund-raisers to maintain the bridges and those funds will probably be used in building a new Bob White Covered Bridge. The estimated cost of the project has not been announced.
There was some discussion of the covered bridge project at the Patrick County Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) meeting March 3.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, board chairman and TAC representative, said members need to see about the money “that’s already there” for the two bridges.
Hayden said the county owns the right-of-way to the bridges.
“But if the community builds it they own the structure,” Weiss said.
Joseph Quesenberry, tourism and marketing director, said there are plans to build a kiosk at the site, using timbers recovered from the old bridge, and explaining its history.