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4-20-07 Elder Mill Bridge Public Park in Oconee County is worthy goal

Many folks do not want houses hanging off all the River and Creek banks in the county. Oconee County needs to support the Elder Mill Bridge project and help it happen…. Then we can do the same with High Shoals and Apalachee Beach- while we still can.

AVOC

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April 19, 2007

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Elder Mill Bridge Public Park in Oconee County is worthy goal

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Efforts to save Elder Mill Bridge and establish a public park should be encouraged and supported by the Oconee County Commissioners.   Elder Mill Bridge is one of a few preserved wooden covered bridges in Georgia and may be the only one carrying traffic.The Georgia Department of Transportation has a website about many of these bridges.

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Al Cumming and the Martha Harris – Vaughan family have been longtime proponents for saving the Bridge and leaving the area undisturbed.   In the late eighties, as County Attorney, I participated in a meeting between Choyce Johnson, then Commission Chair, and property owners on Elder Mill Road.   Folks on Elder Mill Road, including the Hwy 15 area, wanted the road paved.It was then one of the longest dirt roads in the county and a number of residences were located on it.   Al Cumming and Ted Vaughan then proposed that the bridge and its approaches not be paved and in fact be preserved for future generations.

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The County considered rerouting the road north of the bridge and preserving the bridge as an historic structure.   Some adjacent property owners objected to that idea because of the area needed for new right of way.   The Vaughan family and Al Cumming did not want the road paved from Rose Creek to the intersection of Saxon Road.A compromise was reached.   The County was able to pave Saxon Road (off Colham Ferry Road) and the Elder Mill Road over to Antioch Church Road.   The Hwy 15 end was paved to Beechnut Lane.   This allowed most residences to have paved road access.We were able to complete the paving of the Antioch Road-Saxon Road section during my first term as Commission Chair.

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In the late 90’s, the GA DOT bridge inspection program declared the wooden bridge unsafe for vehicle traffic.   With the support of the Cummings and Vaughan families, we were able to obtain a grant from the GA DOT for restoring the bridge.It was closed for the better part of a year.   Experienced restoration contractors were used and the restoration took place under the direct supervision of GA DOT personnel.    Al Cumming was often called and often introduced himself as the “Elder Mill Bridge Troll”!   The Watkinsville Garden club planted a flower garden at the northeast corner of the bridge approaches.

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The County and the State promoted Elder Mill Bridge as a tourism and historic site.Signs were placed and the Bridge was placed on the County’s website.One year, the County had replicas of the Bridge and Eagle Tavern made into magnetic coasters that were given to employees and friends at the annual Christmas Dinner.I have a couple of them now as souvenirs.   At one time, the Eagle Tavern Welcome Center had these available.

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This section of Rose Creek is a pretty area and should be saved for the benefit of the public.AVOC has not been excited about purchasing development rights with taxpayer funds and leaving properties in private ownership.   The Public, now and in future generations, needs to have access to such sites.

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Many folks do not want houses hanging off all the River and Creek banks in the county. Oconee County needs to support the Elder Mill Bridge project and help it happen…. Then we can do the same with High Shoals and Apalachee Beach- while we still can.


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ELDER MILL BRIDGE - GA DOT -Corner View

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ELDER MILL BRIDGE - GA DOT - ROSE CREEK

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CA 1975 (Digital Library of GA)

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Al Cumming and Tedd Vaughan –Courtesy of Oconee Leader

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FOR MORE PHOTOS AND INFO, SEE THESE LINKS AND ARTICLES:

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GA DOT Website on Covered Bridges in GA

http://www.dot.state.ga.us/specialsubjects/specialinterest/covered/elder.shtml

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National Register of Historic Places – Georgia – Oconee County

http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/ga/Oconee/state.html

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Digital Library of Georgia

http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/meta/html/dlg/vang/meta_dlg_vang_oco001.html?Welcome

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Athens Magazine

http://www.athensmagazine.com/pdf/OconeeCountySection.pdf

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Oconee County Website – Historic Sites

http://www.oconeecounty.com/Community/index.htm

Georgia's Online Outdoor Recreation and Adventure Guide - www.n-georgia.com

http://www.n-georgia.com/elders-mill-bridge.htm

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Elder's Mill Bridge in Watkinsville, Georgia was constructed in 1897 in the town lattice style.  The bridge originally spanned Calls Creek on the Watkinsville-Athens Road and was moved by wagon to its present location by John Chandler of Watkinsville in 1924. Recently restored, it is one of only a few bridges in Georgia that still carries traffic without help from underlying steel beams. Local community support is in evidence at the site with the Watkinsville Garden Club's planting at the East end of the bridge. A neighbor decorates the bridge with Christmas lights every December.

General Info
County: Oconee
Other names: Rose Creek Bridge
Length: 100 ft.
Built: 1897
Builder: Nathaniel Richardson
Truss: Town lattice

Stream: Rose Creek
Road name: Elder's Mill Road
Traffic: Yes
Parking: No
Picnic area: Not maintained/overgrown
Historic marker: Yes
Owner: Oconee County

Directions:  From Athens, take Hwy. 441 for 9 miles south to downtown Watkinsville, go south on Hwy. 15 for 4 1/2 miles and east on Elder's Mill Road for 1 mile. In Herman Michael Park. In the Historic Heartland Travel Region. Call 706-769-5197.

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Oconee County Commission Minutes 4-3-07 –Tedd Vaughan requests BOC action

http://www.oconeecounty.com/Meetings/PDF-Minutes/4-3-07.pdf


4-12-07 Oconee Leader- Group working to save Elder Bridge as Park

The Oconee Leader

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The Oconee Leader

46 Greensboro Hwy Ste A

P. O. Box 967

Watkinsville, Georgia30677

editor@theoconeeleader.com

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April 12, 2007

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Group working to save Elder Bridge

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By INGUNN MERCER - The Oconee Leader

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A group of land owners wants to protect the area surrounding the covered bridge on Elder Mill Road. They have petitioned the Oconee County Commissioners for support of the plan to keep the dirt road and to create a park by Elder Covered Bridge.Tedd Vaughan, who owns land on the road, said they first and foremost want to protect the area for the future.

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"Elder Covered Bridge was built in the late l800s and is truly all wood, no steel. It is a unique thing. We are a group of people who want to protect the bridge and the dirt road. If the road is paved, then the bridge will be moved. When you think of all the development in Oconee ... if we don't protect this now, who knows what will happen in the future," he said.

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The suggested park will consist of about 25 acres of land, in­cluding the bridge, Little Rose Creek, and there is talk of creating a river walk. Charles Morgan, who owns Elder Mill, is willing to join in on the project, according to Vaughan. The mill is renovated and now has living quarters, but Mr. Morgan would make the mill a part of the park if the project gets support and becomes reality.

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"We've got the DOT behind this and the state of Geor­gia, and how rare is it that that the person who owns the mill also is in on this," said Vaughan.

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He said they proposed their plans to Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irwin and Governor Perdue's offices and have moral sup­port from them. But they need the county to sup­port the project either with money or by maintaining the park or in another way for them to be able to get state grant money for the project.

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Al Cuming is called the "keeper of the bridge" by his neighbors. He owns property on the river and has lived there for 37 years. He wants to donate his land to create a park by the bridge and mill in honor of his wife.

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"My wife is now in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. I wanted to do this in her honor. Also, kids have been coming here to play and swim in the river since the Indians, and this park is something poster­ity will appreciate long after him [Vaughan] and I are gone," said Cuming.

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"The park is being offered to the county. It is remarkable that Al wants to give the county this gift," said Vaughan.

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Right now the land owners are waiting to hear from the county commissioners what support they can get and also what they need to do to protect the dirt road. Tedd Vaughan explained the vision for the park.

"AI's house will be the headquarters. We would like to make a picnic area where school buses can come down. We might create a lake. Many kids don't have the privilege of having a place to go fishing. We want to create stuff for kids. and a quiet place to get away," he said.

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Both the bridge and the mill are on the historical register. Cuming said that Elder Covered Bridge at one point was given a helping hand by former president Jimmy Carter.

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"Years ago he gave me $,500 to fix the bridge. Oconee County was so poor at the time they couldn't afford to take care of it. There are only nine covered bridges left in the state, and most of them ·are closed to traffic," he said.

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The cost of the preservation of the land for the future is hard to es­timate.

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"The price tag is not known, but the loss of it is known. The gov­ernment has $0 million for proj­ects like these, and we already have their support, so now we're just awaiting the county commis­sioners' decision," said Vaughan.


4-15-07 Elder Mill Bridge Park being considered in Oconee County

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/041507/news_20070415074.shtml

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April 15, 2007

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Bridge area seen as place for park - Elder¹s Mill in Oconee

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By Lee Shearer

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WATKINSVILLE - The Elder's Mill Covered Bridge could become the center of a new park ……

The plan also would preserve another Oconee County historic icon, the nearby Elder's Mill, and create a ….

The bridge is off Georgia Highway 15 about four miles south of Watkinsville on Elder's Mill Road……..

But if the Oconee County government is willing to commit about $ 250,000 in cash and in-kind services such as signs, the county could leverage millions of dollars in grants, donated land and conservation easements, Page said………


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