YELLOW SPRINGS — Governor Mike DeWine spent the day as an outdoorsman at John Bryan State Park on Wednesday. The governor and First Lady Fran DeWine were invited to dedicate the newly constructed South Gorge Bridge at John Bryan, before traveling to the bordering Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve to dedicate a second overlook there.
Rather than traveling to the second site in a sleek black Suburban, DeWine elected to walk the nearly 2.5 miles of trails to Amphitheater Falls himself.
“Fran and I grew up in Yellow Springs, but we haven’t been here in a while,” he said. “It’s good to get out on such a gorgeous day.”
The governor greeted many passers-by on the John Bryan trails and spoke with Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) officials about the park’s current and future projects — all while wearing a mask. The South Gorge Bridge project, which cost about $400,000, is the latest improvement for those looking to enjoy the beautiful Ohio autumn.
“It’s a big deal putting a bridge across a national and state scenic river,” said Capital Program Administrator Steve Berezansky. “It’s very hard to do. The permitting alone can take a year, sometimes two years.”
The original bridge had been built in 1935. By 2014, the bridge was closed to the public as it was sagging, dilapidated, and dangerous to use.
Construction began in August 2019. Per regulation, contracting company R.B. Jergens was not allowed to work in the water. They had to construct scaffolding along the 130 foot length of the bridge, and build it out from the shore one piece at a time.
Ohio parks have exploded in popularity in recent months, as Ohioans seek ways to get out of the house in the age of COVID-19.
Glen Cobb, Chief of Ohio State Parks and Watercraft, said that Ohio is sixth in the nation for watercraft registration (first in the nation is Florida). In a typical year, Ohio sees 180,000 watercraft rentals. This year, watercraft rentals have spiked to around 215,000.
“Folks have been overwhelmingly using Ohio State parks,” Cobb said.
During the months of lockdown, Ohio lost more than 85,000 overnight stays at campgrounds and cabins around the state. In the months since quarantine was lifted, those campgrounds have seen 75,000 overnights, just shy of making up for that lost revenue.
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