An historic bridge is coming down this week. Not a heavily traveled bridge, mind you, but a link to rural roads, community and personal memories. It is known as the Venango Veterans Memorial Bridge and it spans French Creek in the borough of Venango.
French Creek, at the site of the bridge is quite wide, shallow, and ripply. When my brothers and I were small we would play in the creek, walk across it, sit in the middle on a hot summer day, catch mussels and crabs, study dragonflies, etc. We could see the bridge from our property along the creek, blue-green and shining inthe sun. It was a favorite fishing spot for many people. Our daughter loved using the bridge for some of her recent photo shoots of graduating seniors.
When I was 16 and began dating my husband, we took many-a-walks across the bridge, some evenings, pausing just beyond the reach of the streetlight where we would steal a few kisses and gaze at the ripples below reflecting the light of the moon. We would ride our bicycles up the steep hill on the far side of the bridge where the road met yet another bridge that spanned the gulf created by the railroad tracks below. The tracks follow the creek.
(Interestingly enough, the railroad bridge was also closed due to disrepair, although to see it now, and the way the deconstruction crew has reinforced it in order to take out the pieces of the creek bridge is quite amazing.)
The bridge has not been kept up by the highway department in the last decade or two, and for quite sometime has been in disrepair up to the point where it was no longer safe. That was several years ago. There was some talk of fixing the bridge, but "officials" decided against it when they were confronted with environmentalists crying that the work would destroy the mussels below: apparently they are endangered or something! We think, however, it was just an excuse to not spend the money.
The irony of the project is that workers fully expect the bridge--at least parts of it--to end up falling into the creek, although they are going to take precautions not to have that happen, but no doubt in the end, a few mussels will end up being sacrificed.
I will really miss the bridge. Even though we have all known it was coming, I think we are in that first stage of grief right now: disbelief that it is really going to happen. For Venango residents my mom's age and older, it is much harder. It is a sign to them that the good old things really are being lost day by day: a world, changing, in spite of their difficulty adjusting to the changes.
The plaque commemorating the construction of the bridge will be saved for posterity's sake. It and the pictures people have taken of the bridge over the years will be all that remains in a one week's time - a cloud on our otherwise thankful Thanksgiving.
If you follow the link below you can visit the bridge in pictures.