Community Up in Arms As U.S. Forest Service Plans to Close Mayburg Bridge

| February 23, 2019

FOREST CO., Pa. (EYT) – Property owners in the small village of Mayburg in Forest County are fighting to save the bridge that serves as a major access route to their community.

The U.S. Forest Service has announced plans to close the bridge in May of 2019.

Mayburg is a small, picturesque village located in Howe Township, Forest County, containing around 150 properties split between year-round residents and seasonal use properties. Owners of the seasonal properties spend a part of their year in the Mayburg community.

There are two access routes to the village, and according to some property owners in the area, the Mayburg Bridge is the only reliable access route. The Mayburg Bridge, which sits just outside Howe Township in Kingsley Township, connects State Route 666 to the privately-owned dirt road leading to the village.

The other access route is a steep, narrow road which connects to T358, also known as Beaver Meadows Road. It is not maintained in the winter and often becomes completely impassable for a portion of the year.

Road to Mayburg. Photo courtesy of Mayburg Bridge FB page.

The Mayburg Bridge has an interesting history.

Built in 1905 as a railroad bridge, it went through several changes before its final conversion into a single-lane wood-decked bridge in the 1940’s. Currently, it is used primarily by permanent residents, non-resident property owners, hunters, fishermen, and quad and snowmobile riders to access the village of Mayburg.

During the 1960’s, the deteriorating bridge became a topic of public interest. After a number of meetings and discussions, it was decided that if the property owners could collect enough money to bring the bridge up to code, the U.S. Forest Service would then take ownership of the bridge and maintain it. The U.S. Forest Service officially purchased the bridge in 1966 and has maintained ownership since then.

The problem lies in the continued deterioration of the bridge since the property owners investment in updates during the 1960s. According to bridgereports.com, the bridge is listed in poor condition, classifying it as structurally deficient, with a bridge sufficiency rating of 40.9 on a scale of 1 to 100. Because of the bridge’s deterioration and structural deficiency, the Forest Service placed a 6-ton weight limit on the bridge. In addition, the Forest Service announced plans to close the bridge in May of 2019.

According to local property owner Jim Biel, the engineering reports documenting the worsening condition of the bridge have been brought forward by the Forest Service supporting the fact that the bridge has reached the end of its useful life.

The threat of the loss of the bridge is a major concern for the property owners in Mayburg.

“This bridge is the main access route to Mayburg,” Biel told exploreClarion.com. “In the winter, when the hill is iced over, it’s really the only way in.”

The local concern over the possible closure of the bridge mounted late last year. A meeting was held in October of 2018 which included local residents and property owners, as well as the Forest County Commissioners, the Kingsley and Howe Township Supervisors, representatives of PennDOT, a representative from Senator Pat Toomey’s office, a representative from Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office, a representative of Collins Pine Company, and representatives of the Northwest Transportation Advisory Board.

The goal of the meeting was to:

1. Establish the need for a plan to replace the bridge;
2. Put that plan in place; and
3. Discuss possible funding.

A plan was not developed at the meeting, though, and following the meeting, a workgroup was formed to continue meeting until such a plan can be established. Nevertheless, the workgroup has not come together since that date.

According to Rob Fallon, District Ranger for the Marienville District of the U.S. Forest Service, the intent was to have additional conversations to explore possible options; however, the government shutdown that began in late December and lasted through a portion of January delayed the process.

“Given all of the tasks that were delayed, we’re still playing catch up,” explained Fallon.

Fallon noted that there is a lot of history to the concerns for the Mayburg community, going back to the earlier days of the bridge, and the Forest Service is just one part of the overall situation.

“The bridge has been in a state of deterioration almost since it was built,” Fallon said. “The Forest Service took ownership of the bridge in the 60s, hoping to acquire nearby land from Collins Pine, but that never materialized. The Forest Service owns the bridge, but the bridge doesn’t access National Forest property.”

According to Fallon, the Forest Service is currently working with local government entities and community representatives to collect information and seek a solution.

“We’re going to be working on developing talking points and maybe more definitive statements of the facts, but I want to wait until we’ve collected all of the information to discuss what we view as possible options or our next steps.”

Though other options are being explored, it seems that the Forestry Service may still be planning to close the bridge.

Forest County Commissioner Robert J. Snyder, Jr. told exploreClarion.com as of his last contact with the Forestry Service, “the shutdown date in May was still standing.”

While the future of the bridge remains uncertain, the current state of the bridge and the restricted access due to the weight limit is also a serious concern for property owners in Mayburg.

“The six-ton weight limit on the bridge is preventing basic service type vehicles such as fire equipment, emergency medical equipment, and utilities such as electric, oil, and propane from getting to the properties in Mayburg,” Biel said.

Mayburg weight limit sign. Courtesy Mayburg Bridge page.

“The chief of the Sheffield Fire Department, which services the area, said that they don’t have a single vehicle that can safely cross the bridge. What if someone had a fire? Or needed an ambulance? This could lead to tragedy.”

ExploreClarion.com reached out to Sheffield Fire Department for comment, but the calls were not returned.

Currently, the Mayburg community has pulled together to raise money in an effort to help save the bridge their community relies on. A Save the Mayburg Bridge GoFundMe campaign has raised over $5,000.00 in less than a month to be used for legal and other costs associated with fighting to keep the bridge as access to Mayburg.

Local residents have also mounted a campaign to have people contact Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office and let him know how important the Mayburg Bridge is to the local community.

“We need to find a way to save this bridge for the sake of our community,” Biel said. “Its closure would cut Mayburg off and create serious problems for the people who live and own property here.”


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