Despite interruptions from Black Lives Matter demonstrators, city officials dedicated a new pedestrian bridge in Pennypack Park.
Hundreds of rock ’n’ roll fans streamed toward Pennypack Park’s Ed Kelly Amphitheater on Aug. 9 for the latest installment of the summer concert series known as the Pennypack Music Festival.
And for the first time in almost two years, nobody had to climb fences or beat back thick underbrush to get there, although many folks found themselves navigating past the profanity-laced bullhorn diatribes of a couple of police brutality protesters.
Despite the interruptions, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell and Councilman Bobby Henon joined other public officials and about 30 citizens in dedicating a new pedestrian bridge connecting the concert venue with its primary public parking lot in the park’s Little City section. Park users can access the bridge directly from the park’s entrance on Rhawn Street near Holmehurst Avenue.
The $570,000 weathered steel bridge spans the Pennypack Creek and replaces a deteriorating wooden bridge that the city closed in late 2015 and removed months later.
“I want to thank everybody for being so patient because I know this bridge has taken a really long time and it is beautiful now and we’re tremendously excited for what it’s going to add to Pennypack,” Ott Lovell said. “This is a great park and this was my neighborhood park when I was growing up.”
“I think it’s a long time coming. The bridge is finally back to being the connector to Ed Kelly Amphitheater and Little City for people to use it in passive and active recreation,” Henon said.
The city officials planned a birthday party theme for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. In advance of the 6 p.m. event, Henon and his staff passed out bubble-making toys to the many children in attendance and their parents. But just as Henon introduced the other public officials, including Ott Lovell, state Sen. John Sabatina and Lou Feinberg — an aide to Councilman Al Taubenberger — two men identifying themselves as Black Lives Matter demonstrators approached the podium with a bullhorn and delivered their own loud political messages.
Later, Henon, Ott Lovell and other officials further described the project. The work was a joint capital project involving Parks and Rec as well as the Department of Public Property. Project Director Francesco Cerrai and Manager Bernard McFadden said that the rusted look of the steel bridge is intentional. The oxidation on the outside actually protects the underlying metal from the elements.
Workers installed new concrete abutments in the banks of the creek, along with asphalt paths leading to both ends of the bridge, which reconnects an eight-mile paved path running through the Pennypack valley from Frankford Avenue to Pine Road. East of Frankford, the path leads to Torresdale Avenue, then to State Road and finally to the Delaware River.
“This bridge is for Ruth, who was just here with her dog Benji. She’s in her 90s and takes her walks,” Henon said, referencing a park user he met. “This bridge is going to connect eight miles of fantastic greenway and pathway in our Fairmount Park system.”
At the opposite end of the trail, the path leads to Montgomery County’s Lorimer Park at Pine Road near Fox Chase Farm.
The new bridge employs a clear span abutment system, eliminating the need for pier support structures in the creek bed.
Ott Lovell found the city’s next Pennypack Park project on her way to the bridge ceremony. The driveway leading from Rhawn Street to the Little City parking lots is a continuous succession of potholes, patches and ruts.
“I was feeling really good and then I drove in and I was like, ‘Oh, this is a really rough ride up to this beautiful new bridge,’ ” the commissioner said. “So something tells me we’re not done here.”
The Pennypack Music Festival will present three more concerts this season: Mike LeCompt on Aug. 19, The Launch (a Boston and Styx tribute band) on Aug. 23 and Think Pink Floyd on Sept. 6. All shows start at 7 p.m. ••
William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.