New Pennypack footbridge nears completion

Workers plan to finish installing a new Little City footbridge during the week of July 17, according to a Parks and Recreation official.

TIMES PHOTOS: WILLIAM KENNY

The waiting is almost over for Pennypack Park users who have spent the last year and a half trying to navigate an interruption in the park’s 8-mile-long recreational trail.

Workers plan to finish installing a new Little City footbridge during the week of July 17, according to Barry Bessler, the director of policy and compliance for the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to local park advocates including leaders of the Friends of Pennypack Park and the Pennypack Music Festival, the city first targeted the bridge for replacement at least five years ago, citing its structural deficiency. Festival organizer Donny Smith isn’t sure exactly when that determination was made, but he began noticing periodic repair work on the bridge, which spans the creek not far from Rhawn Street and Cresco Avenue.

The bridge serves the park’s primary paved walking and bicycling trail and is a vital link between the Little City parking lots and the Ed Kelly Amphitheatre, where the Music Festival hosts about a dozen outdoor concerts each spring and summer.

Eventually, the city installed concrete barriers at each end of the bridge in an effort to allow pedestrians and perhaps bicycles to cross the bridge while blocking wider or heavier vehicles from using it. Motorized vehicles including dirt bikes and ATVs are prohibited in the park.

Sometime between fall 2015 and spring 2016, the city installed fences at both ends of the bridge to block all traffic. Initially, Smith said, city officials told him they planned to install a new bridge in time for the 2016 concert season, but planning fell behind schedule. Park officials attributed the delay to the city’s transition between mayoral administrations.

Initially, some concert-goers and other park users simply climbed the fences to make the crossing, forcing the concert organizers to position security officers at the bridge, Smith said. Eventually, the city removed the bridge altogether, leaving the fences and concrete footings.

Smith said he was then told a new bridge would open in time for the 2017 concerts, but workers encountered an unexpected delay due to trout season in the creek. State game regulations took precedence over the city’s capital project.

Last week, workers delivered a pre-fabricated bridge to the crossing location, which remains surrounded by temporary fences and off-limits to the public. There’s also a crane, backhoe and other heavy construction equipment.

The fifth of 11 concerts on this year’s schedule will be July 12 at 7 p.m. and feature the local Irish bands Jamison and Bogside Rogues. A Led Zeppelin tribute act is scheduled for July 19. The series will conclude on Sept. 6. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.