Signs memorialize Clarkton Bridge

Published 2:01 pm Saturday, January 16, 2021

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The historic Clarkton Bridge, which once connected Charlotte and Halifax counties across the Staunton River, was dismantling and removed two years ago, but recently, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has installed interpretive signs memorializing the bridge.

According to VDOT, the new signs are located on Clarkton Bridge Road (Route 620) near the site of the bridge on either side of the Staunton River.

The new signage is part of a memorandum of understanding between VDOT, various state agencies, Charlotte and Halifax counties, and local stakeholders after VDOT reached out to the public to negotiate the removal of the bridge.

After being deemed unsafe, Clarkton Bridge was closed to all traffic in 2015, and according to VDOT Lynchburg District Communications Manager Paula Jones, a $505,763 contract was awarded for the dismantling and removal of the structure in October 2018.

VDOT has been responsible for the cost involved in the design, construction, and installation of the signs interpreting the Clarkton Bridge and the Staunton River corridor. In addition, VDOT plans to conserve several pieces of the bridge to be given to museums in Charlotte and Halifax.

The Clarkton Bridge area was also home to a public boat landing that was closed in the spring of 2018 following the expiration of the lease by Charlotte County.

In 1998 VDOT closed the bridge due to safety concerns, and by 2003, the bridge was slated for demolition.

A group of local citizens rallied to save it, forming the Clarkton Bridge Alliance. The alliance had the bridge designated a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail and incorporated into the Clarkton to Red Hill segment of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.  A private donor contributed funds for repairs to the bridge, and in 2005 it reopened to non-vehicular traffic.

In 2006 Clarkton Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

By 2016 the bridge had again fallen into disrepair, with elements of the steel piers failing. VDOT again slated it for demolition, and citizens once again rallied to save the bridge.

In late 2016 VDOT began a series of facilitated meetings that included other interested government agencies, Charlotte and Halifax government representatives, and stakeholders from both counties. The purpose of the meetings was to determine the fate of the bridge and to create a memorandum of understanding between the participants.

In early 2017, some stakeholders hired an independent expert on truss bridges to provide an assessment of the bridge. 

The conclusion was the bridge had major safety issues and needed to be removed.