BELLAIRE — The Great Stone Viaduct Historical Education Society’s plans to preserve the iconic landmark and renovate it into a walking path and park are coming to fruition after 10 years of work and planning.
Members and supporters of the society heard an update on Tuesday and celebrated the progress at the group’s annual banquet, held at the Sons of Italy pavilion in Bellaire.
Board member Dan Frizzi was the keynote speaker and presented on the state of society.
He pointed out that the theme was “In construction,” and screens showed drone footage of the viaduct and progress since groundbreaking in late April.
“I welcome all members, guests and friends of the Great Stone Viaduct Society”, he said. “We are celebrating our 10th year as a company as we celebrate the 151st year of the Grand Viaduc de Pierre.”
The $2 million project is supported by the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the first phase consists of a gazebo that will hang over the arches, for half a mile, with a walking path and a bike path in taking shape as well as a place that is nearing completion.
Frizzi said they are tentatively planning the groundbreaking and opening of the trail and plaza for 1 p.m. on October 23.
He said the company is eventually considering renovating the land north of the overpass into a park.
“Our company is doing much more than developing this property of the viaduct”, he said, citing the winter lecture series of live presentations which was paused for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed last winter and will return in February and March at 18 hours every Wednesday at the Bellaire Public Library. The public is invited to attend or view the conferences live on Facebook.
Frizzi said train travel has also resumed, with a day trip scheduled for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s Frostburg Flyer 1309 steam engine on Oct. 9.
“We still have a few places left” he said. “We’re going to ride behind the largest steam locomotive east of the Mississippi River.”
Frizzi compared the group’s backers to the cornerstones that form the arches of the viaduct. There are arches dedicated to former students of Bellaire High School, the Italian-American arch, the veterans arch, the education arch, the friends of the overpass arch, the Building America arch dedicated to blue collar workers and the memorial arch. There is still time to be a donor for one of the arches. Donor names will be listed.
He estimated the company had raised a quarter of a million dollars through donations over the past 10 years.
He recalled how the first eight council members came together 10 years ago to form the society and pursue the goal of preserving the viaduct. They were himself, James Cochran, Sue Douglas, William Kasko, Larry Siebieda, Lillian Siebieda, Joanne Sullivan and James Williams.
Currently the board consists of Frizzi, Ed Mowrer, Cochran, Nancy Merryman, Sandra Cilli, Dave Hudson, Lindsay Maynard, Marion Stolz, Erica Keller, Siebieda, Don Taylor, Jim Williams, Mike Zeno, Dick Frizzi, Amber Marshall and David Slie. .
“All the hard work we have put in over the past 10 years will finally come to fruition with a completed project,” Frizzi said.
He also praised supporters including the Belmont County Board of Commissioners, Belmont County Port Authority, Community Improvement Corp. and the Village of Bellaire, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato and Clerk of Courts Cynthia Fregiato, as well as former State Representative. Jack Cera, who helped them get grants.
Frizzi said the Belmont Savings Bank has been a major donor and the gazebo will be named after the bank.
“We are proud to be part of the Grand Viaduc de Pierre and to support,” EJ Schodzinski, the bank’s chief administrative officer, said. “I’m really looking forward to the October 23 celebration. It’s great to see the progress, and we can’t wait to see this project through to completion. … It’s part of our mission, to be part of this community and also of communities throughout the Ohio Valley. … We are proud to be part of the Bellaire community. The GSV is a must have, it’s something everyone sees when you come to town.
Belmont County Tourism Director Jackee Pugh said the overpass project will be a valuable source of interest that her office can promote to potential tourists. She added that the current project has attracted interest from as far away as Cincinnati.
“There are no other structures as iconic as the Great Stone Viaduct here in Belmont County,” she says. “It’s arguably the most recognizable landscape we have in the county. … There are so many travelers looking for historical monuments to visit and discover. … They can walk on it and really experience it.
For more information, visit greatstoneviaduct.org, find the group on Facebook, call 740-963-3500 or email [email protected]