Kennett Township's Chandler Mill Bridge will be for pedestrians, bicycles and emergency vehicles only
● By Richard Gaw
In the meeting rooms of local government, it is a rare occurrence when the actions of our elected officials stir applause from those in attendance. Rarer still is when those who are applauding get off of their seats and deliver a standing ovation, but at the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 21, that's just what many in the audience did.
To rousing approval from residents, Board Chairman Scudder Stevens and supervisor Dr. Richard Leff passed a resolution declaring that the historic Chandler Mill Bridge in the township – currently closed and now owned by the township, who has agreed to pay for its renovations – will be re-opened as a structure intended for pedestrians, pedal bicycles and emergency vehicles weighing up to and including 20 tons.
Under Resolution No. 2105-8, the bridge will otherwise be restricted to motor vehicles, as well as the construction of appropriate signage, break-away or removable bollards and other devices to prevent vehicular traffic from using the bridge, but still allow emergency vehicles to pass.
The specifics of the resolution, spelled out and read at the meeting by Township Manager Lisa Moore, serve merely as an official stamp of finality on a ten-year effort by township residents, conservation groups and elected officials to wrestle the bridge – which was closed in 2011 due to structural damage – from Chester County, whose plans for the structure included having it rebuilt as a two-lane, two-way vehicular bridge.
On Nov. 5, 2014, by a vote of 2-1, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion to authorize the township to take actions necessary to obtain the bridge from the county, which was authorized on Dec. 8 by the Chester County Board of Commissioners.
Stevens said that while running for a supervisor seat in 2011, the question of whether to preserve the Chandler Mill Bridge as a historic and functional structure was "high on the radar of the electorate."
"I promised to save it," he said. "By action taken this year, the township committed to save to save that bridge and is actively in the process of taking ownership from the County, in order to accomplish that goal.
"We should build our dreams, and live our plans, so long as we also exercise due diligence and care in the process. This board of supervisors is committed to performing its duties in such a responsible and careful manner."
Stevens credited resident Tom Brokaw's for his vision in creating a conservation zone for the vicinity of the bridge, which includes a donation of 45 acres of the Brokaw property to the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County [TLC] contiguous to the bridge, a $100,000 contribution to Kennett Township to fund the maintenance of the bridge, and a contribution of up to $100,000 to the TLC toward the purchase of real estate, to be used as the TLC's new headquarters and visitor's center.
"Guided by this thoughtful and generous vision by Tom and his family, and in conjunction with Kennett Township, we share the goal to jointly pursue an on-going effort to shape a significant, natural and environmental resource that will serve the community in perpetuity," Stevens added.
Dr. Leff said that in his mind, it didn't make sense for the bridge to be replaced by a modern, two-lane, two-way bridge, which would cost $3 million and built with federal funding.
"I wanted to preserve that bridge, and make the best use of it," Leff said. "We've weighed out a lot of pros and cons and options, had numerous discussions with our township engineers, and heard from a lot of the public. I think we're at a point now where I think we've heard from the public on all of those options, and we appreciate your input."
"I have to thank Tom [Brokaw] for his incredible vision and selflessness...and for the supervisors for sharing that vision," said Kate du Pont, chairperson of the TLC. "We're thrilled to have another preserve open to the public, where people can come out and enjoy the connectivity of trails. I think this is going to be a model for other townships, for other states, to see what can happen when you have a dilapidated bridge and a community coming together and finding a solution that works for the greater good."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .