Painters create lasting image of Honey Run

The iconic Honey Run Covered Bridge near the town of Paradise is gone but dozens of people gathered at the Williams Fire Department on Saturday to create a memory of the 19th century relic that will last a lifetime. 

Julia Ornbaun, who works for the city planning department, hosted an opportunity for the group to paint the historic bridge from a photograph. 

The covered bridge stood over Butte Creek since 1866, and was one of many structures that were completely destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018. 

Ornbaun hosted the event to help raise money for the Honey Run Bridge Association to build a replica. 

“They estimate it will cost over $700,000 to rebuild,” Ornbaun said.

While the event was way to raise money, it also gave people who treasured the icon or were affected by the tragedy an outlet for grief. 

Honey Run was the last remaining three-span timber Pratt-type covered bridge in the United States, and had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988. The Camp Fire also killed 86 people and burned nearly 7,000 structures.

“I grew up there and it feels a little bit personal,” Ornbaun said. “I kind of just wanted to help uplift everyone. My grandparents lost their home. My aunt didn’t lose her home, but she is still out because of FEMA.”

Most of the people who attended Saturday’s event had lived in the Paradise area. 

“We had people from Santa Rosa and San Jose who were displaced there because of the fire,” Ornbaun said. 

Others that came just had fond memories of the bridge or just wanted to help the bridge get rebuilt. 

Gene Johnson, of Colusa, and his sister Lorraine Bailey, of Meridian, remembered many fond trips from their Southern California home to their grandparents’ home in Meridian more than 50 years ago that almost always included a drive up to Honey Run on a Sunday afternoon.

“We would always picnic under the bridge,” said Bailey, who reminisced about her grandfather relaxing in the shade eating sardines and crackers, and her grandmother wading in the creek with her dress tucked up into her waistband. 

The siblings have lived in the Colusa area for a number of years, and never forgot the about the covered bridge. 

“We were just there last year,” Johnson said. 

Forrest Oldham also attended the event and painted with the group. 

Oldham, who lives in Woodland, just released his book “California Covered Bridges pre-1900s” last fall when the Honey Run Bridge burned, but he immediately went to work on another, the “Honey Run Tribute Book,” from which part of the proceeds go to help various fundraisers, including helping to replace band equipment and the restoration project.

“I purchased a clarinet (Friday) with these funds,” he said. “The clarinet is going to an 8-year-old girl who lost her clarinet in the fire.” 

The book incorporates many photographs of the bridge, including the work of local photographers Sue Graue and Ron Brandford.

Angela Bassetti, of Willows, was the painting instructor. ■