Sitting in her home around the corner from where the covered bridge stands almost fully reconstructed, FOBC board member Patricia Adams said the bridge’s restoration this year serves as an example of how things should work — a micro-local group of residents, regional preservation organizations and state agencies all came together to save a piece of history.
The bridge was put on the state historic register in 2007, and six years later a state Department of Transportation inspection revealed major structural problems, pushing DOT, the Department of Environmental Conservation; Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the local municipalities to begin crafting a full renovation. Friends of Beaverkill Community, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Open Space Institute played significant roles lobbying for the bridge’s restoration and also in the investment in the adjacent DEC campground, which was established in the 1920s. The $1.97 million construction contract to fully restore the bridge was bid out in 2015.
“It’s a great story of how things get done,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, a non-profit focused on preservation and advocacy for the Catskill region.
Public fishing and public camping are the iconic Catskill experience, Ramsay Adams said. Natural and historic Catskill attractions like the Beaverkill Covered Bridge and its 97-site campground, which was once a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, serve as an economic lifeline for the region as it continues to build a sustainable tourism industry.
The local community made it clear the bridge and campground are critical elements of the community’s identity, DOT Region 9 Public Information Officer Dave Hamburg said, and DOT worked with all the stakeholders to get the bridge restored. Still closed to traffic, the bridge should be significantly completed by the end of this year, Hamburg said.
Eric Hamerstrom was 7 years old in 1954 when his family moved to the area and he began spending his summers on the Beaverkill. A lot of people travel to Beaverkill just to see the covered bridge, and it brings a little more money into the tiny community.
“These places of beauty and history are essential,” Hamerstrom said.
Hamerstrom has watched project superintendent Joe Boris and his Sullivan County Paving and Construction team painstakingly restore the bridge last July and throughout this year. Nothing is fast in a project like this, Boris said. To preserve the integrity of the bridge and stay true to its historic construction, Boris’ team jacked up the old bridge, took it apart piece by piece, salvaged what they could and rebuilt it one piece at a time. The bridge itself is now complete, but laborers are taking apart the stone ramp leading to the bridge, sifting through the usable rocks and rebuilding it.
Next up for rehabilitation will be the DEC campground, with tent sites on one side of the river and day-use sites on the other side. John Adams, chairman of the board of trustees for the conservation organization Open Space Institute, said OSI has developed a 10-year plan for rejuvenating the campground, which sits on the only public access point to the Beaverkill.
It’s been a “very special place” since the 1920s, Adams said, and the community intends to keep it that way.
By Amanda Loviza-Vickery