The restoration of the historic Sandy Beach Bridge that spans Indian Lake’s harbor should be finished in August and ready to accommodate its first pedestrians since 1981 when it closed to the public.
The bridge has a storied history and stands as an iconic landmark for hundreds of thousands of Miami Valley residents who visit the lake for boating or who traveled there as youngsters when the lake included an amusement park complete with dance hall and roller coaster.
By the time the restoration wraps up, it’s expected a fundraising campaign for the work will have raised about $350,000. The arched steel bridge will have a new 8-inch-thick composite deck. Landscaping and benches will be placed along a pedestrian path with markers memorializing the people and activities of the lake’s heydays.
Jim Reed, 60, owner of Spend-A-Day Marina, has been leading the restoration effort that began when his father Bill passed away five years ago. When the park closed, the Reed family purchased the 20 acres where the amusement park stood, intending to build a resort hotel. While that plan didn’t materialize, condominiums and some commercial development today occupy the site.
In the meantime, the bridge was closed because the deck had rotted and was deemed unsafe. Amusement park visitors used the bridge as a connection from the Midway to the dance hall, wild mouse ride, and the roller coaster on the other side. The lighted bridge is long a symbol of Indian Lake, Reed said, a place once known as “Ohio’s Million Dollar Playground.”
Reed would like to see the bridge, which was built in the 1920s, become a place where car shows, boat shows, art exhibitions, winter festivals, and holidays are held. As part of the tradition, a Christmas tree annually is placed at the top of the bridge. Reed has donated land to the Indian Lake Area Historical Society to provide permanent public access to the bridge.
When the amusement park was in full swing, Reed remembers spending time on his boat and listening to an eight-track tape of Three Dog Night.
“I hung out there many nights,” he said. The opening ceremony will include a “Generation’s Walk” across the bridge by families who have visited the lake for decades, Reed said.
Bill Benedetti, President of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce, said the lake draws enough people to double the county’s population during the summer season.
“The fact that we are able to bring something back that was such a big part of the community 50 years ago is a great achievement,” he said.
Logan County Commissioner Dustin Wickersham grew up in a house along a lake channel. “For my entire life I have seen the bridge in this condition and only saw it being used in old photographs,” he said. “This is huge. It will reopen and then make all those connections to the past. Couples who kissed for the first time on the bridge, kids who met at the bridge. Now we can make all these new memories. That’s how cool this is for me.”
For more information or to contribute to the restoration, see: http://sandybeachbridge.com/
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