Papermill Bridge, spanning Pennypack Creek in the lower third of the preserve, is a critical link in the Trust’s 11-mile trail network. It connects the Trust’s lands and trails on the east side of the creek with those on the west, and is essential for stewardship activities. The bridge, a rubble-filled stone double-arch structure, was built in 1817, making it the third oldest bridge in Montgomery County. The integrity of the bridge is important, for both utilitarian as well as aesthetic and historical reasons. Therefore, when the Trust discovered that the eastern arch of the bridge was in danger of collapsing, the there was no question that the Trust would have to commit itself to the bridge’s restoration.
Work got underway on November 19, 2014, and continued throughout the brutal winter months of 2015. Masons are repointing all the stonework on the bridge to keep water from penetrating into the structure. In addition, they are replacing failed mortar under the eastern arch and are grouting stone into place to support the cartway above. When the masonry work is complete, the Trust’s contractor will remove the existing asphalt cartway, install an impervious liner, and then repave the bridge; all of this work should keep water out of the structure to prevent further deterioration. The restoration should be complete by late summer 2015.
Renovation of the Papermill Bridge is the most costly capital project the Trust has ever undertaken except for its land acquisition projects. However, the Trust recognized the value of the beautiful and beloved bridge and was fortunate to have the financial resources to complete the $200,000+ project.