OIL CREEK TOWNSHIP, Venango County — The Messerall Road Bridge, located in Oil Creek Township, Venango County, found a new home at Pymatuning State Park.
The bridge will be dissassembled and moved to Spillway Trail, an abandoned rail trail near the Linesville Spillway in Pymatuning State Park. The bridge will be used by cyclists and hikers and not by automobiles, just like when it was first built.
The Crawford County Commissioners transferred ownership to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources during a commissioners meeting last week.
The historic bowstring truss bridge has been collecting rust since it was officially closed in 1982. Since 2007, the bridge has been sitting above Pine Creek without a deck.
There is a dispute about when the bridge was built. Some records say the Messerall Bridge was build in 1870, however the style of the bridge wasn’t patented until 1873. Experts say the bridge was probably erected between 1873-1876.
The bridge predates automobiles, and according to ByGoneHighways.com, the bridge was used to transport nitroglycerine to oil wells. The bridge is historically significant as it is the only bowed truss bridge still standing in Pennsylvania that was made by famous bridge builders, Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio.
Pymatuning State Park is working on a project with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to add five miles of trails from Fries Road to Townline Road to the Spillway Trail. Pymatuning ran into trouble when they realized the Spillway Trail additions needed a bridge to cross Linesville Creek.
PennDOT keeps a list of historically-significant bridges that are in disrepair. When Pymatuning’s bridge need became apparent, PennDOT played matchmaker and facilitated the transfer of property from Crawford County to the Pennsylvania DCNR.
DCNR Pymatuning Park Manager Daniel Bickel was happy that the historic bridge will get to stay in the county and continue to educate residents. “The Linesville Spillway gets over 400,000 visitors a year,” said Bickel. “This is a bridge with history going back to the oil days. We are happy that this piece of history gets to stay in Crawford County.”
PennDOT is currently in the project bidding process. Whoever wins the contract will disassemble the bridge some time between May and August of next year. Once the bridge is in pieces, the bridge will be sandblasted and cleaned. Eventually the bridge will be painted to match park colors.
Dvorkin can be reached by email at email@example.com.