$1.9M grant secured for Bellaire’s Great Stone Viaduct

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK The Great Stone Viaduct Society has been approved for state grants to preserve the historic structure and transform it into a community park, but a local match is still needed. Society Chairman Paul Cramer announces the grant approval.

BELLAIRE — After years of planning, the dream to preserve Bellaire’s Great Stone Viaduct and transform the historical structure into a park may become reality, now that the project has been approved for a $1.9 million grant through the Ohio Department of Transportation.

However, the use of the grant requires a 5-percent local match, or almost $100,000, and site development costs such as grading and cleaning, estimated at $250,000. This means local funds of about $350,000 must be raised before the grant can be accessed.

The $1.9 million ODOT Transportation Alternatives Program Construction Grant, as well as an award of $5,000 from the Tom E. Dailey Foundation in Chicago, were announced Tuesday during the Great Stone Viaduct Historical Education Society’s third-annual All-American Banquet fundraiser.

Viaduct society Chairman Paul Cramer outlined the planned project, which has been a goal since the society obtained ownership of the viaduct in 2015. Officials hope the $1.9 million grant will be enough to complete the first phase of the project.

“It will include a visitor center, parking, walking and bicycling trails, an elevated walkway spanning 20 stone arches, and an observation deck at the end,” Cramer said. “Phase II of our project will need to be funded next and will continue the walking/bike trail along the railroad bed to 26th Street.”

Cramer commended the board of trustees for their time and effort. He also congratulated the local community and businesses for their financial support and urged them to continue that support.

“We need your help. … I’m hopeful that the project can be completed in its entirety by the year 2021. This is the year that will celebrate our 150th anniversary from the construction of the Great Stone Viaduct,” he said, adding that the funding of the community will be recognized. “Their name will appear on a recognition plaque when construction is completed. We are hoping to place this plaque near a building which will appear as a turn-of-the-century railroad depot. Our donors can select an arch to contribute to or name a new one.”

Cramer said to date, the viaduct boasts a Business Arch, a Bellaire Alumni Arch, a Veterans Arch, a Coal Miners Arch, an Italian-American Arch, a Memorial Arch, a Friends of the Viaduct Arch, a Railroad Workers Arch, and the Belmont County Bar Association Arch. Recent suggestions for an additional arch are an Athletic Arch and an Energy Arch.

“I’m hoping you can locate some funds to try and get this project going. I don’t want to leave the $1.9 million on the table,” he said. We’re hoping to move this forward as quickly as possible.”

The guests also heard from Belmont County Tourism Director Barb Ballint, who said the viaduct will be one of the sites on the Oct. 8 rubberneck tour.

“Your passion is so inspiring,” she said.

In addition, Cramer announced the viaduct will be featured in the 2017 “Visit Ohio’s Historic Bridges” brochure published by the Ohio Bridge Association and ODOT.

“The Great Stone Viaduct is one of only six historic bridges features in the interior of the brochure, which is pretty amazing,” Cramer said.

Also, the trustees of the Great Stone Viaduct Society have been honored with a 2017 State Historic Preservation Office Award from the Ohio History Connection.

“The award will be formally presented Oct. 28 in Columbus,” Cramer said.

Board Member Dan Frizzi Jr. also spoke about how the popularity of the project has progressed.

“This is no longer just a local project. This is a county project. This is a state-wide project,” he said. “When the board of trustees goes to Columbus Oct. 28 to accept the preservation award, we’ll be representing Belmont County, but we will also be representing the viaduct, which is one of those historic bridges in the state of Ohio. We need your support. We’ve come a long way, but we need to finish this project.”

For more information, visit greatstoneviaduct.org.