News & Feature Articles Written About People & Places in Lake County, Ohio            

Doty Road Bridge to wineries reopens in Lake County

Repair closes gap in tourist route Monday, August 13, 2007
Maggi Martin,  Plain Dealer Reporter

Madison Township- Tony Debevc crossed the rebuilt Doty Road bridge this week and grabbed a glass of wine to celebrate.

He won't be the last to toast the news, either.

The third-generation owner of Chalet Debonne, the state's largest estate winery, should be uncorking a lot more chardonnay now that Doty Road is reopened. Flooding last July wiped out the bridge and cut off the main route to Chalet Debonne and five neighboring wineries.

"The loss of Doty Road has been devastating," said Debevc, who estimated he lost as much as 25 percent of retail wine sales because many customers opted not to travel 12 miles out of their way to access the back entrance.

The bridge was the most high- profile of six spans damaged during last summer's fierce Grand River flooding. The rebuilding effort - which is ongoing - cost $2.4 million, said Alan Exley, design engineer for the Lake County engineer's office.

Officials said 11 inches of rain fell in eastern Lake County during the storm, creating a monstrous wave of water. The usually gentle Grand River flowed at nine times its normal volume and reached a depth of 19 feet, almost 10 times its normal summer trickle.

Exley said nature's destructive force astounded engineers. At the Leroy-Thompson Road bridge, the gushing water actually changed the course of the river. The new bridge had to be created with a wider 20-foot span in a different location.

At Doty, the entire deck of the bridge crumpled. Giant chunks of asphalt and concrete buckled under the water's force.

At the time, Debevc was so impressed at the show of power, he held a bridge-out party and chauffeured guests to the site to view the destruction.

Now, county and winery officials will celebrate the new bridge with a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The bridge is vital to vineyard tourism, a $6 million industry in Lake County. Many wineries coordinate weekend wine trails where visitors sample drink and foods at five or six stops on a looped trail. The Doty Road bridge is a major connector to the wineries on the trail's southeastern end.

"The broken bridge broke the chain connecting the different wineries," said Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Association.

"The new bridge will return the logical flow of customers just in time for the harvest season."