As soon you cross the bridge between Skinners Falls and Milanville, you come to a bend in the road. On your right is a historic barn and, on your left, is a stone wall with steps and a walkway that …
As soon you cross the bridge between Skinners Falls and Milanville, you come to a bend in the road. On your right is a historic barn and, on your left, is a stone wall with steps and a walkway that leads to the iconic Milton Skinner House. In my mind’s eye, I can imagine Skinner himself sitting on his porch after having his supper, watching the wagons and carriages cross his historic structure, which was built in 1901-1902. Skinner appreciated the special nature of the bridge so much so that, when the family sold the bridge to Pennsylvania, they presciently inserted into the deed a clause that states that the existing bridge should stand as it is and be maintained through the years. According to the current owner of the Milton Skinner House, Steven Ircha, there is a right of reversion in the hand-written deed that states that if the existing bridge is no longer used, the property surrounding the bridge would revert back to the owners of the property.
Skinner understood the beauty of his bridge, which is technically unique with its decorative detail and pin-connected Baltimore-truss structure.
Its beauty and significance remain.
The Milanville Bridge is a one-of-a-kind historic structure that was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1988. The bridge connects Skinners Falls, where thousands of residents and visitors recreate on a weekly basis, to Milanville, PA, which was named a Historic District in 1993 with 14 historically significant structures including the bridge. It is listed on the 1992 Multiple Property National Register as a historic and architectural resource of the Upper Delaware River Valley.
The bridge was slated to be rehabilitated by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) in 2014 and restored to a 10-ton limit. It was determined then that bringing the bridge up to a 10-ton capacity would allow cars, ambulances, delivery trucks and small fire apparatus to cross, while preserving the rural and historic character of the area.
This plan needs to be followed through on.
Throughout the 1980s, the area wrestled with figuring out how, with the river’s inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River System in 1978 and its designation as the Upper Delaware National and Scenic River, to protect private property rights while preserving the natural and historic significance of this area. During that time, the National Park Service began a presence on the river, a river management plan was created and, through a fair amount of strife, a balance of private property rights and public good was forged through the formation and foundational documents of the Upper Delaware Council. That council, made up of thirteen town and township representatives, as well as a representative from Pennsylvania and New York, unanimously agreed, with one absention, that the Skinners Falls/Milanville Bridge ought to be preserved and restored to its natural and historic beauty. They codified their agreement with an eight-point position paper outlining their reasoning that they submitted to PennDOT as part of the 30-day public comment process.
PennDOT needs to decide that this directive, to preserve and protect the assets of this river valley, forged as a community of communities and upheld for 40 years, should be implemented and the bridge be fully rehabilitated.
It has the power to do it, it is being encouraged to do it and to not do so destroys the intent of the River Management Plan, the National Registry of Historic Places and the many years of collaboration. Surrounded by small narrow roads with 10-ton weight limits on both sides of the bridge, it is not feasible or necessary to build a 40-ton bridge. Those crossings are available at Narrowsburg and at Cochecton/Damascus.
PennDOT needs to dust off its 2014 plan to completely rehabilitate the Skinner’s Falls/Milanville Bridge.
It needs to preserve the bend in the road that is at the threshold of this historically significant bridge. The bridge tells the story of a vibrant past and leads to a meaningful future of preservation of this historically signicant area.
The Skinners Falls/Milanville Bridge must be preserved.
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