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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Randy Phiel

(12/2012) As difficult economic conditions at all levels of governments make some projects more difficult to justify, we need to think outside the box to get some worthy projects completed. One way is to form partnerships between governmental entities and private organizations. Unfortunately, that kind of cooperation, coordination and planning is far too rare. I am both proud and happy to report that in Adams County there is currently a shining example of that kind of initiative in progress.

The John Eisenhower Metal Bridge is a unique architectural structure that has straddled Willoughby Run, a tributary of Marsh Creek, in Cumberland Township since 1886. It was designed and built by Gilbert & Smith. Beside the entirely metal framework it is braced with metal pipe struts. The bridge also displays decorative metal castings at the top of the end posts. The county-owned bridge was severely damaged more than a century after it was constructed during the severe flooding of 1996. Tom Shealer, Cumberland Township Supervisor & Roadmaster, said the flood washed the bridge down Willoughby Run. It was recovered and stored at the township building until 1998 when it was reinstalled and the lead based paint was removed. After the 1998 restoration the bridge was re-opened for pedestrian and bicycle use only. Recently, severe deterioration of the wooden deck planks caused significant safety issues and forced the Adams County Board Of Commissioners to make the decision to close it last February. County maintenance placed construction fencing and Closed signs at both ends of the bridge. Until the closure, the bridge had connected Red Rock & Waterworks Road to the Sachs Mill Bridge for pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists. "It is a wonderful area for peaceful recreation from walking to biking, fishing and birding," said Barbara Underwood, chair of the township's board of supervisors

In 2011, local community advocate, preservationist and benefactor Tim Shields approached me regarding some improvements to the historic Sachs Mill Covered Bridge, which adjoins his property on the Freedom Township side of Marsh Creek. He especially wanted the historic bridge to look at its best for this year's 150TH Anniversary Commemoration. I have some background in public/private partnerships and we discussed a public/private partnership for that proposed initiative. When I mentioned the county recently closing the John Eisenhower Metal Bridge, Shields and I decided to join forces and resources to include both of these bridges in the improvement project; which did not include any funds from public budgets. After discussing the proposed John Eisenhower Bridge project with my fellow commissioners; as well as Adams County maintenance and Cumberland Township officials, it was determined that if private monies could be raised for the materials, county and township personnel would install the decking and trim overhanging limbs as their schedules permitted.

The approximately $4000 required for the oak bridge decking was donated by the Tim Shields Family & The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, organizers of the annual civil war reenactment. At the time of this submission for the Emmitsburg News Journal, approximately 75% of the decking has been replaced by the crews of Adams County Maintenance Director George Groft and Cumberland Township Roadmaster Tom Shealer. The overhanging tree limbs have also been trimmed. The bridge should be re-opened for recreation and foot traffic in December. The project gained even more momentum and credibility when the National Park Service and The Gettysburg Foundation learned of the bridge(s) improvement project and the NPS offered labor and expertise while The Gettysburg Foundation committed $1500.

We are now discussing painting the John Eisenhower Bridge in the spring and making several improvements to the Sachs Mill Bridge. The Sachs Mill Bridge improvements will hopefully include a seasonal water fountain on the Cumberland side, dusk to dawn lightning on both sides, graffiti removal and improved parking on the Freedom side to decrease erosion and enhance aesthetics. Most residents and visitors go to the Freedom side and are not aware that the Cumberland Township side of the bridge has handicapped access, parking and ramps leading onto the bridge. The Cumberland side of the bridge is accessed by Pumping Station Road to Roberta Way to Waterworks Road. Make a right on Waterworks from Roberta Way then go past the water plant. I recently had the opportunity to discuss some proposed bridge parking improvements with Freedom Supervisor Chairman Matt Young and will have follow-up discussions with the Freedom Board as the project progresses.

These are the type of projects that should make all of us in Adams County proud. To engage in a positive community initiative, with a true spirit of cooperation between public and private sectors, with a tangible result, that does not impact the taxpayer, hopefully begins a pattern that can be repeated throughout Adams County. I have had a passion for these two bridges since I was a child and I cannot wait to see the final results. These two bridges are an iconic part of our Adams County history and fabric. They provide a sense of county pride, tranquility, recreation and "Kodak Moments" no matter what season of the year. We hope to have all the improvements completed by next June in time for the actual 150TH Anniversary on July 1, 2 & 3. If you haven't been to that part of the county recently, grab your camera, walking shoes, lunch bag, bike or history book and visit these bridges. You will be glad you did!

Get out there and enjoy all the historic, recreational, natural and cultural activities that beautiful Adams County has to offer. My best wishes to you and your family for a healthy and blessed holiday season and New Year!

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