For 25 years a covered bridge’s 6-foot 6-inches tall opening served as a gateway to Maitland’s Trotter Drive Lake Nina-fronted neighborhood, until Monday night when an 8-foot-tall trailer brought the whole thing tumbling down in a matter of minutes.
On Monday night a black GMC SUV made it halfway out from under the bridge before the 8- to 10-foot-tall trailer it was towing caught the top canopy and brought the whole wood structure crashing down on top of it. The driver wasn’t hurt, but Maitland Public Works Director Rick Lemke said the bridge is beyond repair.
“Right now it’s all in splinters, there’s nothing to salvage,” Lemke said.
The patches of grass making up Covered Bridge Park now grow nearby with no noticeable landmark for its name. Lemke said it’s too soon to tell whether the city, which covered the 55-year-old bridge in 1988, will decide to rebuild the park’s namesake. For now, he said, the public works department is concentrating on cleanup and getting the now open-air bridge up to code.
“The first thing is making sure the bridge is safe … then we’ll make the decision about what to do about the cover,” Lemke said.
Weight restrictions weren’t mandated for the bridge, he said, because the cover kept large vehicles from getting through. Now they’ll have to add new signs and reinforce the bridge’s concrete side barriers.
Lemke said the bridge has been hit a number of times before by those not obeying the 6-foot 6-inch clearance warning sign, with a bump warranting repairs just last year. He said keeping the wooden structure maintained costs the city roughly $1,000 to $2,000 a year, but brought value in its aesthetic appeal.
According to an online guide of covered bridges composed by enthusiast Dale Travis, the Maitland bridge was one of 52 left standing in the state as of May 13 of this year. His guide shows that hurricanes and construction projects have taken down 13 others in recent decades.