Friends – I hope to be introducing the start of the process of rehabilitating our Perkasie’s Covered Bridge in Lenape Park at the next Perkasie Borough Council meeting on Monday. This process will involve a grant application to pay for at least 50 percent of the renovation costs for the bridge.
Some of you know the Bridge’s story. In 1957, Bucks County decided it wanted to demolish the bridge, even though it is the third-oldest example of an Ithiel Town Lattice Bridge in the United States. (The Town Lattice design made covered bridges affordable for thousands of towns.) The County built the bridge in 1832 and it one of the oldest structures in Perkasie. It was just part of Rockhill Township in 1832 – there wasn’t a South Perkasie, Bridgetown, or Perkasie.
The concerned citizens of Perkasie talked the county out of its “death sentence” for their bridge, as the local newspapers called it in 1957. The bridge was moved in 1958 by our Historical Society, using private funds, to Lenape Park and in August 1959, it was rededicated at a public ceremony.
In recent years, the bridge has started to show its age. There are very few Covered Bridges in the country that old. The good news is since we took it out of road use, the bridge can be rehabilitated for future generations to enjoy.
In 2016, I chaired a committee to come up with a master plan for Lenape Park, and I asked Arnold Graton from New Hampshire, to look at our bridge. Arnold and his father Milton were the first people to move Covered Bridges in the 1950s. Arnold gave me a few clues about the bridge: It was built by master carpenters; it can be rehabilitated to last at least another 100 years; and it won’t be cheap!
The costs could range from $160,000 – $200,000. That would include fireproofing the bridge and adjusting the bridge abutments. Still, that’s a lot cheaper than a new Covered Bridge, and fixing one in service can run over $1 million!
The plan I am proposing will secure a 50% match for a grant from the state Museum Commission, for up to $200,000. The Museum Commission also wants to see community involvement in a successful grant application, when it comes to getting that 50% match. That means we’ll probably get the grant if we get letters of support and contributions from the public; we probably won’t get it if the Borough funds the matching component.
Luckily, I have talked to some “Friends of the Bridge” and they will be helping out. The Bucks County Covered Bridge Society will help with fundraising, along with the Pennridge Chamber of Commerce. Bucks County Community College and Delaware Valley University will work on educational components.
And most importantly, we’re hoping this showcases all the good work of the Perkasie Historical Society. The Society saved the Bridge in 1958 and we’ll be leaning heavily on the society for advice and input.
Our grant application isn’t due until February 2019, so we have one year to gather fundraising and support for this important project.
The South Perkasie Covered Bridge is such a big part of Perkasie that I can’t imagine a future generation not having it. But to make this happen, we’ll need your help and support.
I’ll let you know in coming weeks how the project will develop, and how you can help, if you’re interested!