POLAND — Debbie Mager fondly recalled having spent part of her childhood bouncing on and running along a longtime landmark.
Now, she’s grateful to slow her pace to absorb its new, revamped and revitalized look.
“I’m so glad they were able to rehab the bridge and not have to pull it down,” the Poland woman said, referring to the Mauthe Footbridge in the Poland Municipal Forest. “When the extended family comes to visit, we always walk across the bridge.”
Her family and many others will now have plenty of opportunities to continue doing just that. Mager was among those who attended a rededication ceremony Saturday morning to reopen the newly constructed suspension bridge over Yellow Creek.
The original bridge closed in July 2018 because of a variety of structural problems, including rotted wood, for which an engineering study deemed it unsafe.
For Mager, the celebratory gathering also was personal, because she is the granddaughter of the late J.L. “Pete” Mauthe, former president of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. for whom the bridge is named and who donated the materials for the original.
In 1956, the original 125-foot-long bridge was built and dedicated on the same site. A 1.5-inch diameter steel cable was anchored at each end, and the original four towers remain, Mayor Tim Sicafuse noted.
The $86,000 project entailed adding stainless steel cables, buckles and anchors, treated wood, protective wire-mesh fencing on each side and a composite wooden walkway on one end leading to a set of steps, noted Michael Gentile, project manager for Youngstown-based Murphy Contracting Co., which was the contractor.
The rehabilitated bridge still sways slightly, but feels more solid when walking across it than did its predecessor. It also has a bit of a bounce, though less than the original, said Gary Diorio, project manager for MS Consultants Inc., the engineering firm that conducted the initial inspection.
In addition, the design was in keeping with the original’s look, with added modern safety standards, Diorio said.
Sicafuse also expressed pleasure that the iconic and beloved fixture that’s more than 60 years old will again be seeing foot traffic from visitors.
“It’s a historical bridge built in 1956 that was in disarray and needed repair. Now it’s been brought back to life by a lot of people that were concerned about it,” the mayor said, adding that donations continue to be sought.