Chandler Mill Bridge reopened

Kennett Township supervisors and members of the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County applauded Friday morning when the Chandler Mill Bridge was officially reopened.

The bridge — just north of Kaolin Road over a branch of the Red Clay Creek — was built in 1910 and eventually placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It had been closed since 2011 because deterioration made it unsafe for vehicular traffic. Even before that shutdown, the larger and heavier vehicles could not use the bridge because it couldn’t carry the weight. It will remain closed for most vehicular traffic but will be able to handle emergency vehicles. Its weight capacity is now 24 tons.

Kennett Township Supervisors' Chairman Richard Leff tells an audience that keeping regular vehicular traffic off the newly reopened bridge maintains the serenity of the area.

But the primary use is for "pedestrians, bicycles, and people who want to enjoy the natural surroundings and the preserves that are here and the Kennett Greenway," said Eden Ratliff, who became Kennett Township's manager 53 weeks ago. He said the bridge was even part of the conversation during his hiring interview. He added that the township bought the bridge from Chester County for $1, and the repairs cost slightly more than $500,000.

The bridge project has also been a part of Supervisors' Chairman Richard Leff's tenure his entire time as a supervisor. He said one of the options presented by PennDOT was a standard two-lane bridge for all vehicles.

"Encouraging more cars and trucks wouldn't be the best thing for Kennett Township as well as the actual road. It would have been built for larger, faster vehicles, which is something we don’t need in this part of the township, just more and traffic. But right here, if I stop talking, you can hear the stream and the birds, and the animals can hear themselves," Leff said.

He continued, saying the area is now part of a 27-acre preserve donated as part of the bridge preservation and is now part of the Kennett Greenway.

"It's a safe and quiet place to walk and bicycle. You don't have to worry about everyone else driving around. People know there are a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists," he added.

Abbie Kessler, preservation director for the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, and Christina Norland, executive director for the Kennett Trails Alliance, hailed the bridge being included into the Kennett Greenway.

Kessler noted that plans for the trail network date back into the early 1990s, which helped influence a quarter-century worth of work by the Land Conservancy to acquire land and easements for the Greenway Trail System.

"We celebrate members of the Chandler Mill Consortium. They saw the value of the bridge and the benefits of maintaining it's character and size," she said, thanking those involved with keeping the bridge on the National Registry of Historic Places.

"Today we stand in the middle of the Lower Red Clay Creek Historic District where we can see much of the historic landscape…You can't maintain history without the land."

Norland said she and members of the Kennett Trails Alliance are grateful for the work the township put in to preserve the bridge's nature.

"This bridge is critical to the future of the Kennett Greenway, a 14-mile trail loop designed to connect residents with each other, and to nature. As you can tell by hearing the trees and the birds, the bridge is already accomplishing its mission."

 

 

 

 

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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