Editorial: It's Ours!
By Richard Gaw
Like the quiet, meandering water that flows beneath the historic Chandler Mill Bridge on the edge of Kennett Township, the architecture of progress moves slowly, and for many who were involved with the ten-year effort to save the bridge, progress sometimes felt like it had slowed to a mere trickle.
This week, that painfully slow progress will finally be signed into law.
On Nov. 5, 2014, by a vote of two to one, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors passed a motion to authorize the township to take actions necessary to obtain the bridge from Chester County. On Dec. 8, the request was authorized by the Chester County Commissioners.
This Oct. 7, the supervisors are expected to sign the document that will officially transfer the ownership of the bridge from Chester County to the township, thus opening the gates for a renovation of the 104-year-old structure that will convert it to a pedestrian and bike-use only bridge, while also providing access to emergency service vehicles.
Wednesday's anticipated signing will at last put an end to plans of rebuilding the bridge as a two-lane, two-way vehicular structure, which Chester County had planned to do, an idea that was supported by a slim percentage of township officials and residents. Further, the new bridge will serve as a gateway to the Red Clay Greenway trail, highlighted by the donation of 45 acres of untouched natural, preserved land by the Brokaw family to the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County [TLC].
Look just north of the Chandler Mill Bridge and you will see Walnut Hill, the former bed and breakfast inn once owned by the Mills family, and now the new home of the TLC, who have served as the most vocal instrumental force behind preserving the bridge. And yet, as any member of the TLC or the Chandler Mill Bridge Consortium will readily offer, the truest movement of saving the bridge came soon after the bridge was closed to traffic in 2011. It became a place where residents began meeting neighbors they hadn't met before; where children and their parents gathered creek side to admire the aquatic life in the rippling waters; where hikers converged before they entered the Red Clay Greenway, and where bicyclists stopped halfway their rides for a quick lunch.
Over time, while the TLC fought tirelessly to save the structure in meeting after meeting, the residents were already reclaimed it as their own. The victory had already been won. It became the People's Bridge, for whom it will now remain, in perpetuity.