2009-03-18 / Front Page

A meeting of the minds -

ideas about Burnett's Creek Arch are shared
By Debbie Lowe Staff writer

A glimpse of history Burnett's Creek Arch, the oldest stone arch bridge in Indiana, is located on Towpath Road in Adams Township. It appears on the National Historic Register as the "Wabash and Erie Canal Culvert #100." Comet photo by Debbie Lowe A glimpse of history Burnett's Creek Arch, the oldest stone arch bridge in Indiana, is located on Towpath Road in Adams Township. It appears on the National Historic Register as the "Wabash and Erie Canal Culvert #100." Comet photo by Debbie Lowe The oldest stone arch bridge in the State of Indiana is located in northern Carroll County on Towpath Road in Adams Township. It was part of the historic Wabash and Erie Canal system. Called the "Wabash and Erie Canal Culvert #100," it was placed on the National Historic Register in March 2002 due in part to the effort of the Carroll County Historical Society and museum curator Phyllis Moore. Since that time, efforts have been made to secure funding to preserve the arch where it was built for perpetuity.

However the move to preserve the bridge, which lies on non-county-owned land, has become controversial. A series of county highway leaders have come and gone and area residents have built a resistance to county commissioners' efforts to push forward with a project residents believe to be an extravagant use of taxpayer money and a waste of time and energy.

Finding common ground Highway engineer Paul Couts and landowner Ted Ratcliff discuss the history of the Burnett's Creek Arch at an on-site meeting Friday. Comet photo by Debbie Lowe Finding common ground Highway engineer Paul Couts and landowner Ted Ratcliff discuss the history of the Burnett's Creek Arch at an on-site meeting Friday. Comet photo by Debbie Lowe Adams Township and county council representative Ron Slavens invited new county highway engineer Paul Couts to visit the area Friday and to meet with landowners Janet and Bob Shafer, their son Kent, Ted Ratcliff and local resident Mike Berkshire.

"I thought it would be good for everyone here to meet Paul (Couts) and open the lines of communication about this," Slavens began the meeting at the bridge site.

Couts told the landowners that plans included the purchase of three acres to the south of the road for a park. They explained to Couts only about 20 visitors stopped at the arch each year and said the majority of those were bicycle riders.

Janet and Bob Shafer, whose land would be purchased for what the design engineers describe as a "park," which would include the adjoining lock, said they do not want to invite strangers onto the land next to their house. They cited noise, trash left behind and the lack of privacy for their home-life as reasons they did not want to see the project move forward.

Ratcliff asked how the county could put a structure on the historical register, receive grants and spend taxpayer dollars for a structure it did not own and which was located on land it did not own. Couts said he would research that aspect to find the answer.

Berkshire suggested area visitors be directed to park at nearby French Post Park and a walking trail developed along the waters' edge to accommodate them.

Couts said the arch had to be made structurally sound and the money was allocated for the project. He explained the project is considered a "bridge enhancement," which requires more to be done than simply repairing or rehabilitating the bridge. He suggested a shelter could be added at some point to the park area.

"The reason for this meeting was to let the landowners and the highway engineer meet and start talking about how to resolve this," Slavens concluded. "I think we got the communication open and we can keep them that way."

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