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Supporters secure grant to preserve bridge

February 19, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The waters of the Conococheague Creek, swollen by the rains of Hurricane Agnes in 1972, swept the historic Martin's Mill covered bridge off its piers and sent it crashing downstream.

Volunteers came to its rescue. In 1973, they raised money to rebuild the bridge and set it back on its foundation, this time five feet higher above the water.

Once again the Conococheague is threatening the bridge, built in 1849 and one of only two covered bridges left in Franklin County.

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This time it's not raging flood waters, but the creek's normal flow, usually higher in springtime, that is eroding the foundation on the Weaver Road side of the bridge as well as the creek bank for more than 1,000 feet upstream.

The volunteers, who call themselves the Martin's Mill Covered Bridge Association, mobilized once more by seeking a $58,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Last month, state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, said the money was forthcoming.

The bridge replaced a ford across the creek that led to a gristmill in the early 19th century on Weaver Road, 3.5 miles south of Greencastle.

The bridge was placed on the National Historical Register in 1974. Built by Jacob Shirk, the structure features heavy latticed timbers held together with wooden pegs.

At 205 feet, it is the second-longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania, according to an association brochure.

The association was organized in 1962, 12 years after the Franklin County Commissioners condemned the bridge for safety reasons.

Dr. Evon Barvinchack, 56, a Greencastle chiropractor, and Georgia King, 52, executive secretary of First National Bank of Greencastle, are directors in the bridge association, and it was they who wrote the grant application.

Barvinchack said the money will pay for a barricade to divert water from the pier holding up the bridge on the Weaver Road side, plus a stone wall to stabilize the bank for 1,000 feet or more upstream.

The project will go out for bid this spring. Construction will begin when the creek water drops to its summer levels, Barvinchack said.

Barvinchack, who remembers hunting near the bridge as a boy, said the 35-member association has an annual budget of about $3,000. It survives on donations.

The bridge property includes a seasonal creekside recreation area featuring a campground, picnic area, pavilion and concession stand for public use.

The bridge opens for cars and small trucks four times a year: Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and the second weekend of December.

"The bridge is here for the pleasure of the people," Barvinchack said.

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