By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Rod Alexander has given up trying to save the historic Kelly Road Bridge but is supporting a new plan to preserve parts of it.
Sharpsville council and state officials have blessed the idea of expanding a borough park to display remnants of the bridge.
“The bridge is kind of neat,” said Borough Manager Kenneth Robertson. If we can use a portion of it to preserve that part of engineering history, let’s do it.”
The county-owned bridge actually is two spans, built years apart. The bridges cross the Shenango River, with one end in Sharpsville and the other in Hermitage.
The span that has history and bridge buffs all atwitter was built in 1897, a Parker or Camelback truss bridge, that is rare. This bridge is closed to all traffic, even pedestrians.
The second bridge, built in 1967, is open to traffic but has a 30-ton weight limit - larger fire trucks are too heavy - and can handle only one direction of traffic at a time.
The county has studied various options, from rehabilitating both bridges to tearing them down and replacing them with a single, two-way bridge, while history advocates have pushed ideas including moving the Parker bridge to a new location and rehabilitating it where it is and building a a new bridge beside it.
In the end, even Alexander, the apparent spokesman for the bridge and history community, calls trying to save the old bridge “cost prohibitive.”
Advocates came up with a new plan that borough officials embraced: saving two sections of the bridge and the stones that hold it up and displaying them in a riverside park.
The borough applied to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for a $11,000 grant, which the state announced Tuesday had been awarded.
Borough officials plan to buy 1è acres from the Grandy family to extend Canal Recreation Park north on High Street. To match the grant, the borough plans to provide $2,750 and the Grandy family $8,350, Robertson said.
While the grant is only for the acquisition of land, borough officials agree with the concept of the park espoused by Alexander, and envision it containing a walking trail, a pavilion, a parking lot and a canoe launch, developed with the help of Shenango River Watchers, Robertson said.
Game Time, a playground equipment designer and manufacturer, has awarded the borough a grant to install a tot lot in the park, Robertson said.
The existing 1-acre park along the Shenango River already features an Erie Extension Canal lock and the Raisch Log Cabin.
Alexander’s father, Dean, sold the land for the original park to the borough for $1 in the mid-’80s, Robertson said.
Alexander said he also believes the dirt unearthed during the bridge demolition can be used in the new park, scrap metal can be salvaged by borough businesses, and decking sections can be reused in local bridges.
The ornamental work on the bridge could be reinstalled at the entrance to the new park, Alexander said.
The borough will work with Mourice Waltz Planners and Consultants, Sharpsville, to design the park.