Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fundraising for Bellamy Bridge footbridges reaches goal!

Bellamy Bridge near Marianna, Florida
The Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail is about to take a major step forward!

Located at 4057 Highway 162, Marianna, Florida (between Greenwood and US 231), the one-half mile walking trail provides access to Jackson County's historic Bellamy Bridge. The old steel-frame span across the Chipola River turns 100 years old this year and is the focal point for one of Florida's best known ghost stories.

As of yesterday, the effort to raise $7,500 to fund new footbridges along the trail has reached its goal.

Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail
The Jackson County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the expenditure of $5,000 by the county's Tourist Development Council to support the project.  The money for the capital/interpretive project comes from the county's hotel or "bed tax," which is paid by visitors who enjoy stays at hotels in Jackson County. NO property tax money is being spent on the project.

The use of "bed tax" funding on the boardwalks also received unanimous approval from the Jackson County Tourist Development Council and matches $2,500 raised locally through donations from citizens and businesses. Most of these donations were small and reflect the wide interest the community has taken in the project.

Flooding in 2013
The construction of the boardwalks, which will cross the sites of two historic wooden bridges that once served as approach structures for the main bridge, will open Bellamy Bridge even during most times of high water. Much of the trail follows an elevated causeway built in the 1870s, but gaps where the two wooden bridges once stood have allowed river flooding to block the trail for months at the time.

All of that will soon change. The construction of the footbridges will allow visitors a high and dry way of reaching Bellamy Bridge except during the highest of floods.

In addition, the new footbridges along with leveling work along the trail will open it for persons of all abilities by making it passable for wheelchairs, powerchairs, etc.

"Orb" at Bellamy Bridge
Notice how it illuminates the ground!
A beloved landmark for generations, Bellamy Bridge may be the "most haunted" bridge in Florida. It is also the oldest. Tragic stories dating back more than 100 years have led to the growth of four different ghost stories in the bridge area, the most famous being the tale of Elizabeth Jane Bellamy. The young woman came from an elite antebellum family. She died in 1837 and alleged sightings of her ghost in the Bellamy Bridge were first reported more than 120 years ago.

The Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail was opened in 2012 as a new and free way for the public to reach the historic bridge. The former access route, via Bellamy Bridge Road, was closed by private landowners. The trail, however, approaches the bridge from the opposite side of the river, is well-marked and features a rock parking area, interpretive panels and benches for resting at key intervals.

The path also passes through one of the most beautiful natural settings in all of Florida.

To learn more about the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bellamybridge.

To learn more about the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail, please visit www.bellamybridge.org.

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