York Town Square

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Old Ganoga Bridge: ‘It is a highly unusual sight in York County’

This is one of two plaques that appeared at the two ends of Ganoga Bridge over the Conewago Creek near Strinestown in northern York County. Today, the plaques are safe at Boy Scout Camp Tuckahoe. But the bridge (see photo below) they replace is slated to come down. (York County Heritage Trust photo) Background posts: Big Conewago serves as physical, symbolic divider of York County culture and The Susquehanna Trail: ‘Greatest highway in Eastern America’ and Along the Trail: ‘I didn’t know a peach tree from an apple tree, but we learned quickly.’

The once-beautiful Ganoga Bridge, the span that divided Boy Scout Camp Ganoga into two parts, may be coming down.
And at least one area preservationist is not happy about it.
Barb Raid of Historic York wants PennDOT to leave the old structure standing when its replacement eventually opens to traffic.
And the owner of the old campgrounds says its replacement will be unremarkable architecturally.
The old bridge bears many interesting features including the remains of 12 lamp posts in honor of the Scout Laws… .

After Camp Ganoga closed in 1945, Boy Scouts used Camp Conewago in Adams County for a few years before Camp Tuckahoe opened. This scene from “On My Honor: 70 Years of Scouting in York & Adams Counties” shows Scouts from an earlier period returning home after a week at Conewago.
The point about leaving it standing is a good one. If bypassed and subjected to lighter use, it’s doubtful it will fall into the creek. If it remains standing, that will save a large bridge worth of landfill space. PennDOT should wait about 100 years when it will no longer bear even pedestrian traffic and then tear it down.
The York Daily Record/Sunday News’ Teresa Boeckel included Raid’s comments in a recent column (1/25/09):

Ganoga Bridge is “possibly unique”
Barbara Raid, an architectural historian at Historic York, said she was hoping PennDOT would let the old Ganoga Bridge stand when the agency replaces the 1926 concrete span with a new structure this year.
She surveyed the old bridge in 1991 and commented on its graceful design.
“It is a highly unusual sight in York County,” she wrote. “Very few, if any, other bridges in the county duplicate Ganoga Bridge’s size or multiple-concrete-arch construction, although there are a number of large, steel, through-truss bridges to be found.
“. . . Other than the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, it may be the biggest multi-span, concrete arch bridge in the entire county,” she continued. “. . . On a state-wide basis, Ganoga Bridge may not be especially notable; but on a county level, it is significant and possibly unique.”
Raid said recently that it doesn’t appear that the old bridge is going to fall into the creek anytime soon.
But PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said it’s more a case of an old bridge that is falling apart rather than a historically significant one.
Sometimes when a bridge is deemed historic but needs to be replaced, it is relocated, such as in a community park, he said in an e-mail. It’s unusual for PennDOT to leave a bridge alongside a new structure, though it’s not unheard of.
That has happened with covered bridges and with a truss bridge in York County, he said.
“The bottom line, however, is who is going to own and maintain the old bridge and keep it from falling apart and falling into the creek,” Penny wrote. “It’s one thing to have it as part of a recreational trail, quite another to try and keep it as a reminder of an earlier time.”

Phil Grosh, current owner of old Camp Ganoga grounds, wrote the following in a Comment to the previous post on the bridge:
The Ganoga bridge is slated for replacement in the upcoming year. After years of neglect by Penn DOT they made a decision to replace it rather than make any attempt at repair. They have completed the plans and have taken the land that included the remaining original foundations from Camp Ganoga’s first buildings. Work was slated to begin this fall but so far nothing has been done other than test borings and surveys.
The replacement of course has no features that will ever inspire anyone to take a picture or write a piece.
Your piece was well done. As the current resident of the camp I have researched all that I can and found all your facts to be in order.

The old Ganoga Bridge over Conewago Creek.