Group Holds Fundraiser to Rebuild Whites Covered Bridge

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LOWELL, Mich. — It was a packed house at Larkin’s Other Place in Lowell. People from Kent and Ionia County
came to show support and chip in to help rebuild Whites Covered Bridge.

The live music proved to be the perfect pitch to community members. It drew scores of people to the fundraiser and kept them entertained.

Tacos were the main course. Keith Salters cooked behind the scene and tried to keep up with the fluctuating crowd.
He is among the many people with a connection to the bridge.

“We moved back here from Ohio and [the bridge] something I remember in my childhood traveling over many times, and I wanted to go see it again,” Salters said.

He recalled, “I was getting ready to get my camera out and went over… and it’s burnt.”

July 7th, the historic bridge was found destroyed. It had burned to the Flat River below it.
Investigators determined the 146-year-old structure was the target of arson.

“It shocked me, and I guess that whole sadness of it and the history gone forever,” Salters said.

With the help of several sponsors, events like this one will offer people the opportunity to give. An inmate in Muskegon County painted a rendition of the bridge as an auction item.
Christine Baird is president of the fundraising group. She said it will cost just under $300,000 to rebuild the bridge. The goal is to raise the money in about a year.

“Dan Vos Construction Company is planning to build the new bridge. Ionia County Road Commission will maintain the bridge once we raise the funds to put the bridge up,”
Baird said.

She said several fundraisers are planned over the next 8 months in several cities.

“So we are trying to spread the event throughout the community. So anyone can participate whether we’re in Lowell, Ionia, Belding. We’ll be back to Lowell, May 17th, 2014.

“Hopefully we can gather enough support from the community that they will just come pouring  on out for us. We’re promising music and fun and lots of food,” Salters said.

The next fundraiser is scheduled for December 21st and will actually be a euchre tournament.

Other places that Supporters for Whites Bridge plan to attend include:

1) November 15-17 –  Christmas Through Lowell

2) December 7 – Impact Church Craft Fair, Lowell, MI

3) December 21 – Euchre Tournament, Steel St. Hall Ionia, MI

4) February 23, 2014 – Daytona 500 Party, Belding American Legion (tentative)

5) March 22, 2014 – Lowell Expo – Lowell High School, Vergennes Ave.

6) April 2014 – 5k Walk/10k Run Through Fallasburg Park

7) May 17, 2014 – Lowell Fair Grounds All Day Event, (*plans are in the works)

8) July 6, 2014 – 24 hour vigil camping and donations at the bridge site

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  • bridgewright

    Has it not occurred to the group that wooden bridge building is not a typical form of construction, but one which requires a specific knowledge base, specialty tooling and skill sets unique to its practice?

    • Paul Phenix

      We have the project engineer on board that rebuilt the Ada Covered Bridge in 1980. The Ada Bridge and Whites Bridge were both Brown Truss type bridges and Tom brings all that knowledge with him.

  • George

    The basic bridge construction is basic, like it was when originally built.
    The test of time supports that-
    The most difficult aspect of rebuilding the bridge to its historic roots will be finding lumber of the same quality unless modern products are used, such as engineered lumber.
    Old growth trees and the drying processes of the time resulted in stronger materials.
    Not t mention the old timers really knew what they were doing

  • Paul Phenix

    Hello this is Paul Phenix founder of the ORIGINAL Rebuild Whites Covered Bridge/ Friends Rebuilding Whites Covered Bridge group. The group that put on this fund raiser is an off shoot of my group, my group set up and planned the event but when we had the split, we decided to let them run with this to ensure Larkins would not be left holding the bag. The estimate to build the bridge is not $300,000 as repeatedly said by Mrs. Baird but $392,000 as estimated by Tom Byle our engineer who rebuilt the Ada Bridge in 1980. Also to claim that one company will rebuild the bridge is just plain wrong as the replacement will have to be bid out just like any government job has to be.

  • kdude

    Do we have 2 different groups fighting about how to complete a common goal? Keith, Christine & Paul must have learned their tactics from CSPAN!!

    • Paul Phenix

      It's not that kdude, it is about the other group pretending to be us that is the problem. They take over an event we had planned, they wear our group shirts and in the past before we did a cease and desist letter, they used the name of our Facebook group. You tell me.

          • kdude

            Your lack of a further explanation and defensive nature makes me even more skeptical. What is your issue, please explain I can't be the only one wondering? I liked the bridge, would like to see it replaced as close as possible as it was and have donated as well as my father who lives in Belding. Both parties want the bridge replaced, I assume, why fight amongst yourselves??

          • Paul Phenix

            I stated what I needed to say in my other posts kdude and my whole point is that they should not be wearing our group shirts, doing events that we planned and saying that one company or the other will be building the bridge when the contract has to be bid on. Where was this group back in July when I got the group started or when my group pulled the debris from the water saving the taxpayers of Ionia county over 40k?

            I am sorry that you feel that I am defensive about this but until you know the full story and stop accusing either group of trying to profit from the rebuilding, that is the way I am going to be.

            We have a great board set now that will guide the process down the right path and get the bridge rebuilt and we need the continued support from people in the community, but lets be fair about it is all that I ask.

          • kdude

            THAT'S MY ENTIRE POINT, I don't have any skin in this game. I see two groups who want a much loved bridge rebuilt and they are fighting about who gets the credit and the contract. Of course it should be up for the best bid as long as it's done right. Who cares who raises the most money as long as the money is raised legally? Like I said it's just like congress, we both have the same goal but it's my way or no way!!!

          • Paul Phenix

            But you don't see the Democrats pretending to be Republicans do you or vice versa? That is the whole point. If you want to raise the money fine, just don't pretend you are us because your group did not do the things we did is what I am trying to say.

          • kdude

            OK so you want the CREDIT, are you running for office soon? How did they get your shirts, steal them? Sounds like two kids fighting over who was there 1st!!!

          • Paul Phenix

            Ya know, I am going to let you be the kid on this way and walk away from this. It is clear to see that you are a member of the other group just trying to egg me on and I am going to be the bigger person and walk away. You have a great day.

          • kdude

            I posted before my father and I gave to "A GROUP" in Belding at a fundraiser to rebuild the bridge. We were not aware of competing groups which still sounds stupid because both have the same goal. At least I gave my opinion and both groups sound like little kids fighting over "who called it 1st!!! Bigger person?? Far from it!!! Boneheaded, definitely..

          • kdude

            I said the behavior of you as well as the other side is boneheaded, another term for stubborn, which is prevalent in politicians & children! I hope this project can go forward in spite of the two childish groups fighting for attention & credit. Of course you know this is a public road and "whomever" is chosen to build ( IF IT HAPPENS!!!) has to be selected by MDOT, not you or the other side.

          • Miss Information

            kdude, Friends Rebuidling Whites Bridge is a group that will be signing a NPO Sponsorship agreement with the Fallasburg Historical Society. There will be no profit for this group in this endeavor. The group has already spared the cost of removal of the remains of the bridge from taxpayers.

            I believe it's the hope of everyone that everyone can come together for this cause.

          • kdude

            There is a difference between private donations and a public bridge. All the donations will go to Ionia county and they will bid out the project because they are ultimately responsible for the result. So the issue is we have 2 sides fighting the credit of getting the bridge rebuilt, right? Please school me if I'm not getting it…

          • Miss Information

            No. Not fighting for any credit. I believe the ORIGINAL group is just upset with the misinformation that's being put out to the public.

            “Dan Vos Construction Company is planning to build the new bridge. Ionia County Road Commission will maintain the bridge once we raise the funds to put the bridge up,”Baird said.

            Nothing could be further from the truth, if you have ANY concept of public works and the (simple) bid process.

  • Miss Information

    I wonder if Dan Vos Construction knows this yet? LMAO!! Being in construction now for 17 years, I can tell you, this isn't like building a house. (I'm sure MOST are aware of this fundamental truth) This is a public bridge, a public roadway, and being such it WILL go through an open bid process.__Sad, but appears that someone is being fed misinformation. Hopefully, the groups will get it together!