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November 28, 2000

Governor Ryan Announces Illinois FIRST Grant to Provide Fire Protection for Historic Bridge - Federal funds also awarded for project
Federal funds also awarded for project

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced that $24,000 in Illinois FIRST funds and a $96,000 federal grant will be used to purchase a fire alarm and sprinkler system for the Thompson Mill Covered Bridge.

"This 132-year-old timber structure is one of only five historic covered bridges in Illinois today," Ryan said. "It is vital that we preserve our historic treasures for future generations and for visitors interested in Illinois history and culture.

"These grants will allow us to protect an important part of Illinois heritage."

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the narrow covered bridge near Cowden in Shelby County is open to pedestrians and cyclists after being closed to vehicular traffic in 1987 when a new bridge was built nearby. Both bridges link Cowden and Fancher across the Kaskaskia River.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, which maintains the state's historic covered bridges, will use an alarm on the bridge that sounds at the Cowden Fire Department. In addition, a 21-head sprinkler system will be installed that draws water from a 6,000-gallon underground tank filled from the Kaskaskia River.

The federal Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program, funded for the first time this year, provided the grant, one of only 30 awarded nationwide.

Historic and culture sites are popular in Illinois. In 1998, The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) ranked Illinois 9th in the nation for the total number of historic/cultural travelers it receives. These travelers account for nearly one-third of visitors to the state.


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