KEENE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The effort to rebuild a historic covered bridge in Ionia County that was destroyed in a fire has received additional funding.
Tuesday, state Sen. Mike Nofs announced that the Whites Bridge Historical Society has received a Michigan Enhancement Grant worth $350,000. The funds will go towards the reconstruction and rehabilitation of a replica of the 146-year-old bridge.
“This funding will go a long way toward making the Whites Bridge rehabilitation project a reality,” Nofs said in a statement. “The bridge was a vital part of the transportation network in western Ionia County and connected the main primary road across the Flat River in that part of the county.”
White’s Bridge crossed the Flat Rive on White’s Bridge Road in Keene Township, between Belding and Lowell. It burned down in the early hours of July 7, 2013. Firefighters arrived too late to save it and the 146-year-old bridge crashed into the water. No one was hurt.
Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Transportation had completed all testing and secured all of the necessary to start rebuilding. In July, MDOT was taking bids for the reconstruction of a replica. The application period ended in August.
The original White’s Bridge, which was built in 1867, was the oldest covered bridge in use in Michigan before it was destroyed. There were only four bridges of its kind built in the U.S., all of them in West Michigan.
The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office says the fire that destroyed the original bridge was arson. In July, Sherriff Dale Miller said that the investigation was ongoing. There is a $7,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office at 616.527.5737.