Heads up, Chagrin Falls folks to whom historic preservation is important. That should be all of us because taking care of our past is important to our future and it is a big part of what our town is about.

Not to mention the local economy via visitors who come for its charm and stay for its shopping and collection of fine restaurants.

The Main Street Bridge is a historic structure and its location on the main drag of our town is a distinctive companion piece to the natural falls.

That in mind, you have until March 5 to voice your opinions, suggestions and concerns to the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding the new plan for rehabilitating the Main Street Bridge.

Deja vu all over again, right? We did this already. Well, we’re doing it again. Why? Because the former favored custom plan for the bridge, negotiated back in 2017 and 2018, ended up being too expensive. The project got just one bid which came in at double the cost estimated.

We all want safe bridges, no question about that. But are safety, historic impacts, authenticity and aesthetics mutually exclusive? Can we have it all?

If I am reading the new documents correctly, the answer is no, we cannot have it our way unless we raise our voices just a little. Aesthetics, history and authenticity are all too expensive and so we are going with Plan B. Or, in this case “Alternate I,”which should be totally unacceptable to us.

The description of the new bridge rehabilitation plan calls for “lining the stone barrel arches with precast concrete segments, encasing the sandstone piers with concrete headwalls . . . the new headwalls will encase the existing structure . . . a form-liner will be used to replicate the stone appearance on the new headwalls . . . nothing on the fascia of the existing structure will be visible once the project is complete.”

In other words, the old stone bridge will be obliterated, hidden under new bridge building materials and replica rock that look like Legos.

The worst examples of this also span the scenic Chagrin River. One is on Miles Road at River Road and the other on Solon Road and Liberty Road. Both are eyesores against the natural beauty of the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation.

There are positives. The new and improved Main Street Bridge will retain its current double arch design and future public meetings will be held during which a “stone” example wall will be unveiled. Local stone has been provided to the engineers who will find the closest match to the facsimiles available.

Can we agree that something replicating stone is not authentic or aesthetically correct for a historic bridge over an iconic water fall on a designated scenic river in the middle of a small town whose neighborhoods and downtown have won seven Ohio National Register of Historic Places recognitions and whose economy is reliant on charm based on all of the above?

The State Historic Preservation Office is not so sure about this alternative plan either. It did not agree with ODOT’s assessment that the proposed plan changes will have no adverse effect on the historic properties of the bridge and wants to hear from “consulting parties” on the revised plan before agreeing to anything.

These consulting parties would include local experts like members of the architectural review board, the village historical society, parks commissioners, local beautification groups and individuals with an interest or expertise in historic preservation.

Applications for consulting party status are available now but time is wasting. The March 5 deadline approaches. To apply to add your comments, lodge objections, make suggestions and ask questions, visit https://publicinput.com/A2814 . Just don’t complain later that you were not warned.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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