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Township takes covered bridge under its wing

August 10, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - "They offered refuge from a sudden storm, they echoed the clatter of horses' hoofs, they had an intriguing atmosphere of adventure and ghostliness."

So wrote G. Fred Zeigler in his 1973 booklet on the history of Martin's Mill Covered Bridge.

He wrote the article for the rededication of the 154-year-old wooden bridge a year after Conococheague Creek flood waters from Hurricane Agnes smashed against it and sent it a couple of hundred yards downstream.

The 205-foot-long bridge connecting Weaver Road on the east side with Hollenshead Road on the west side was built in 1849. It handled traffic - horse and buggy at first, then motor vehicle until 1958, when the Franklin County Commissioners condemned the bridge and ordered it demolished.

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According to Zeigler's history, the question of saving or razing the bridge ended up in court, with the judge finally deciding with the commissioners to raze the bridge. An election occurred before the bridge could be demolished and a new board of commissioners more favorable to the bridge took office.

In 1962, the bridge left government hands when commissioners turned ownership over to the newly formed Martin's Mill Bridge Association, a citizens group.

Ten years later, when Agnes came through and sent the bridge floating down the creek, it was the association members who rounded up the money and volunteers, along with a couple of Grove cranes, and put the bridge back in place.

In later years, the bridge was opened to vehicle traffic only on special occasions when the association ran its annual fund-raiser.

The association also owns a three-acre park, pavilion, concession stand and campground just upstream on the east side.

In more recent years, said Evon Barvinchack, a local chiropractor and president of the 28-members association, rental fees from the park and income from its concession stand were the group's biggest sources of funds. The members also sold cups, T-shirts and hats to raise money.

Then a boy on a bicycle ran into a barricade on the bridge and got hurt. The ensuing lawsuit and settlement plus the increase in liability insurance premiums marked the beginning of the end for the association.

The members' goal always has been and still is preserving the bridge, Barvinchack said.

The adage of what goes around comes around seems to hold true - the old bridge is again to revert back to government ownership.

The association last year leased the bridge and park to the Antrim Township Supervisors with plans to turn them over to the township once some legal matters are worked out in the courts.

"It's a good fit for us," said Ben Thomas, Antrim Township administrator.

The bridge and park are contiguous to the township's 136-acre Antrim Township Park now being built off Grant Shook Road, he said. One of the township's parks already leads to the bridge and a second one is being built.

The association members worked hard to take care of the bridge, but it's the township that has the resources and the ability to apply for grants, Thomas said.

Nine years ago, the township took ownership of Enoch Brown Park and that has worked out well, Thomas said. The township recruited volunteers to clean up the park and made it ready for use again.

The bridge and park are open to day use and the park's pavilion can be rented, Thomas said.

Barvinchack said the association, which has remained active, wants the bridge to be maintained in perpetuity.

"The township will be here longer than any person," he said.

Franklin County's only other covered bridge, on Anderson Road in Montgomery Township, still is open to vehicle traffic, Thomas said.

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