Group seeking to renovate historic Camelback Bridge

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:11 PM

Two decades after it was last painted, the historic Camelback Bridge spanning the border between Lee and Chatham counties in the Cumnock area needs a fresh coat.

So members of the Deep River Park Association — which looks after the centuryold bridge and the nearby park that holds a playground, boat ramp and picnic areas — decided to raise the money to repaint the bridge, which is plagued with flaky paint chips, rust and patches of graffiti.

The only problem: Labor, supplies and Environmental Protection Agency regulations would likely push the cost up to approximately $250,000 — money the small group, mainly made up of neighbors from Cumnock, just doesn’t have — so the park association is now looking at other ways of addressing the bridge’s woes.

“Well, the thing about it is we had estimates on having a contractor paint it, and it came up somewhere around a quarter of a million dollars,” said Bill Porter, an active Deep River Park Association member. “The EPA’s involved in it, and they want (the repainting effort) completely enclosed so the paint won’t fall into the water. I don’t know where they think it’s going when it falls off now, though. It’s kind of a crazy situation.”

The support beams may also have issues in the future if not addressed soon, park association members have reported.

Tuesday night, the park association will hold a meeting at the home of Debbie Hall, another member, to determine their next steps. Hall said anyone who has some ideas or is willing to help is more than welcome attend the 7 p.m. meeting at her house, at 957 Cumnock Road — between Bud’s Barbecue and Zimmerman Road, and a little more than a mile south of the Camelback Bridge.

At a visit to the bridge Friday with her son and granddaughter, Hall said she’d like it if one day her grandaughter’s own children or grandchildren could play on the bridge. Despite its rural setting, the bridge and park are quite popular, she said — there was a wedding there last Saturday, and the park frequently hosts bands and parties — so she hopes it doesn’t fall into disrepair.

“A lot of people come out here,” Hall said. “It’s actually kind of surprising how popular it is.”

Lee County does give the group some funding through the Parks and Recreation Department, Hall said, although she added it’s certainly not enough for a large project. So the hope is that the community is willing to help out as well, she said, to preserve the landmark.

Porter said they’re still searching for ideas to fix it up, although he likes the idea of smaller-scale touch-ups since those aren’t regulated as strictly by the government. The group also dedicated its annual chicken cook-off earlier this year toward work on the bridge, raising about $5,000 — which Porter said was a good haul for that event, but obviously not quite enough.

“It’s a long ways from a quarter of a million,” he said. “So I think what we’re leaning more toward is doing maintenance on the bridge, just spot paint some rusty places.”

The Camelback Bridge, which was built in 1908, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was once the only way to cross the Deep River in that area, but a newer road was built and now the bridge is only open to foot traffic.