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The last wooden bridge standing
When wooden bridge over Allen Creek is replaced, county will lose a last piece of its rural charm
The wooden bridge on Ed Cobb Road will soon be torn down leaving Hall County with no wooden bridges. - photo by Tom Reed

This is part of an occasional series called "Preservation and Progress" dedicated to the historic side of Hall County.

Hall County will soon lose a piece of the past.

By summer of 2010, the county plans to upgrade a skinny bridge over Allen Creek on Ed Cobb Road - the last wooden bridge in the county maintenance system.

Hall County civil engineer Jody Woodall said Hall County has been working for more than a decade to replace wooden bridges, which are a burden.

"It seems like we replace one about every two or three years," Woodall said.

It will cost around $100,000 to replace the wooden bridge with a more structurally sound concrete box culvert.

The old structures are much more high maintenance, causing the bridges to close often for repairs.

"It's a little labor intensive," Woodall said. "Every five to 10 years you're probably redecking it."

It is estimated that the majority of wooden bridges in Northeast Georgia were built before 1950.

During the 1950s, Northeast Georgia began to see advancements in roads and bridges.

Under then-governor Marvin Griffin, the Rural Roads Authority paved nearly 12,000 miles of rural roads in the state, including Hall County.

"A lot of things started in the 50s," said local historian Garland Reynolds.

Hall County has steadily grown since, creating a need for roads and bridges that can accommodate more traffic.

"Historically, most roads were gravel, bridges were wooden," Woodall said. "Most of the roads were narrow then, so the bridges didn't have to be wide."

Larry Poole, right-of-way supervisor for Hall County's engineering department, said one reason it is important to upgrade wooden bridges is because they aren't conducive for more than one car.

"For the most part they're one lane," Poole said. "You have to wait for traffic to get across."

Wooden bridges and gravel roads were once the norm in Hall County and are slowly fading to accommodate growth.

"They're nostalgic and definitely very rural," Poole said.

Poole said though wooden bridges are a symbol of a bygone area, people don't seem too sad to see them go.

"I hear more comments than complaints," Poole said. "You have people say, I really like the old bridge, but I understand."
Reynolds said unlike other historical structures, roads typically don't garner as much interest from preservationists.

Some of Gainesville's historical covered bridges, including Browns Bridge and Thompson Bridge, were drowned when Lake Lanier was created.

Wooden bridges aren't very practical and pose danger from fire and washing away in flood waters.

"A wooden bridge was a scary thing," he said.

Few records of wooden bridges exist.

"The department of transportation, years ago, did a survey of the state for all the historic bridges on state maintained roads," said Gretchen Brock, national register coordinator for the Georgia Historic Preservation Division. "They did not survey the county roads so I'm not sure we have any information on this particular bridge."

Brock said much more is known about the state's covered bridges.

"We do have a lot of information of covered bridges, of course, because people are really interested in covered bridges," Brock said.

The county doesn't have any record of when Ed Cobb bridge was built, though deed records show that Ed Cobb purchased the land in 1902.

The county still maintains around 100 gravel roads, but is working to pave them all one day.

Woodall said there has been more resistance to paving gravel roads then replacing wooden bridges.

"Some people move to these areas to live on a gravel road," Woodall said.

Poole said many view gravel roads and wooden bridges as a kind of moat against development; nothing major can move in next door without a road to accommodate it.

"It's a deterrent for further development," Poole said. "If they want the serenity and peace and quiet, the best way to get that is not to have any transportation corridors into it."

Gravel roads and wooden bridges are viewed as more of a benefit than an inconvenience for some.

"Some people move to these areas for specific reasons whether it's living on a gravel road or beside a wooden bridge or some people have lived here all there lives and really don't want to change it," Woodall said.