WILMINGTON – The City of Wilmington announced Friday the immediate closure of two vehicular bridges in Sugar Grove Cemetery.
The bridges will continue to be open for pedestrian traffic, but all vehicle traffic will be prohibited until further notice.
The closure comes as a result of an emergency inspection by the engineering firm of Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc., which notified the City of its findings on Thursday. The engineering firm is contracted by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to provide inspection services on publicly owned bridge structures.
“We have an obligation to ensure public safety in the cemetery and the actions taken today, while inconvenient, will allow us to begin the process of repairing these aging structures,” said Brian A. Shidaker, the city’s Director of Public Service and Safety.
The cemetery bridges became subject to state inspection standards in April 2015 when the city was required by law to assume responsibility of Sugar Grove Cemetery following the dissolution of the privately-funded cemetery association.
Affected by this current closure order is the truss bridge spanning Lytle Creek, which connects the west and east portions of Sugar Grove.
Also under closure order is the western-most of the three bridges that connect the northern sections of the cemetery near the Luther Warren Peace Path to the main grounds.
The center of these three bridges, the “Darrell French Bridge” was closed by state order in 2016. At this time, the only bridge open to vehicular traffic in Sugar Grove Cemetery is the eastern bridge near the cemetery garage and workshop area.
In an effort to address deferred maintenance of its bridges, the city applied for and was awarded funding in 2017 to repair the truss bridge over Lytle Creek as part of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Municipal Bridge Program.
The award covers 95 percent of eligible costs for repair of the bridge, up to $233,035. The project is currently in the design phase with anticipated completion in the summer of 2020.
As part of the grant process, a Historic Bridge Survey Report was completed by ODOT. The preliminary study suggests that the Lytle Creek bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP).
The bridge, built in 1901 by Champion Bridge, has been identified as a “half-hip pony truss with jack-arch deck using Carnegie iron/steel” and would have significance as a well-preserved example of a Pratt Pin-connected pony truss. As such, it is the City’s intention to take the steps to repair and rehabilitate the bridge with a focus on restoration of original form and style.
Shidaker said he expects the two bridges connecting the northern section of the cemetery to the main grounds to be reopened this summer.
“We are asking all patrons of Sugar Grove Cemetery for patience as the repair work is completed,” said Shidaker.
Questions regarding the closures may be made to the Office of the Director of Public Service at 937-382-6509.