Deteriorating riverfront gazebo remains closed

For the last few months caution tape and bright orange plastic fencing has cordoned off the gazebo on Ohio Street along Marietta’s River Trail. A familiar landmark since the structure was moved to its present location in the mid-1970s, the gazebo has now become a public safety hazard.

“It’s slowly rotating and the supporting columns are separating from the roof,” said local contractor Ken Strahler who discovered the problem last November and reported it to city facilities foreman Tom Kunz.

“Ken called me at home and was concerned about the gazebo. He said he could probably just push it over,” he said. “So I immediately put up some caution tape, and later we added the plastic fence.”

Kunz said the gazebo is a popular location for photographs and some weddings have been held there, but to his knowledge nothing has been done to the structure since November.

“The roof is twisted and the support posts are leaning,” he said. “The roof needs to be raised and all of the wooden posts replaced.”

Marietta Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs council’s lands, buildings and parks committee, agreed, but believes even more work will be required to correct the problem.

“The concrete slab on which the gazebo is built is moving toward the river bank,” he said. “It was built on fill dirt in the 1970s and now it’s moving. The slab has to be stabilized, possibly by installing helical piers underneath.”

Noland has also suggested placing some scaffolding under the gazebo’s clay tile roof to prevent the roof from damage if it would fall off of the supporting columns.

He said portions of the hollow wooden columns have been replaced over the years, but the wood is rotting now because there’s no ventilation to keep the inside of the columns dry.

“Each column needs to sit on a raised foot that will allow air to circulate inside the column and keep moisture from forming, which rots the wood,” Noland explained. “There are places on the columns that are so soft you could put your finger through it.”

As the spring and summer seasons approach there will be more people walking along the River Trail near the gazebo, especially during the annual Riverfront Roar and Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. Noland said the structure needs to be repaired soon, and he plans to place it on the agenda for a lands, buildings and parks committee meeting that will be scheduled sometime next week.

City safety-service director Jonathan Hupp said the inclement winter weather has delayed repairs to the gazebo.

“Now that it’s spring we have several contractors that are interested in fixing the structure,” he said. “We’ll be soliciting quotes for the project. If the quotes exceed $50,000 the contract will have to be approved by council. But we do intend to have the gazebo repaired as soon as possible.”