FEMA denies funding for historic bridge
After receiving dissapointing news from FEMA residents in Schoharie County are working together to fight for one of their most popular attractions. As YNN's Maria Valvanis explains, what some are calling an artifact, others are calling a part of their identity.
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"It kind of took a little heart and soul out of this town, it's part of the history of the town, it's part of the history of the world," said Blenheim resident Steve Kowalski.
Like many residents, Steve Kowalski has been anxiously waiting for the Blenheim Covered Bridge to be recreated. The historical landmark was wiped away last year, by Tropical Storm Irene, and now FEMA has denied the 4 to 5 million dollars needed to rebuild it.
"Since its a county owned structure, county owned bridge, we believe their should be FEMA funding for that," said William Cherry, Schoharie County treasurer.
But FEMA believes the bridge was a historical artifact, making it ineligible for funding.
The bridge has long been considered a top attraction for the area.
"To lose a major tourism asset, the longest wooden bridge in the world, is a devastating blow to our economy, it needs to be replaced," said Old Fort Museum curator, Carle Kopecky.
The county is in the process of appealing FEMA's decision, something Cherry said, won't happen overnight. Regardless, residents are ready to fight to get their identity back.
"Whatever they want me to do, I'll look for more pieces, make phone calls, whatever," said Kowalski.
If the county is able to reconstruct the bridge, they are hoping to use pieces from the original bridge they were able to salvage. If they're able to incorporate enough pieces of the original bridge, into the new bridge, the new bridge will remain a historical landmark.
"It's significant that the national park service gave Schoharie County a two year extension before removing that historic landmark status," said Kopecky.
"It'd be a crying shame not to put that bridge back," said Kowalski.