Dangerous bridge owner starts GoFundMe page to raise money for repairs

Dingman Township. Babette Smith tells the history of the little neighborhood she’s lived in since childhood.

| 17 May 2021 | 12:20

In the 1940s, after World War II, Overbrook Farms bought the property on the park side of the failing bridge in Dingman Township.

Before that, said Babette Smith, the bridge’s owner, it was a brick farm. She said she’s heard many times that the bricks that built the Presbyterian Church in Milford came from there.

In 1949, the park side of the brook was an actual sandy beach with a seven-foot-deep swimming hole. Her parents hosted parties at their picnic grotto nearby. They sold snacks, drinks, and sand pails.

Her father ran a gas-engine train that passed behind the pond and up through the woods and back again. A wooden train station stood in the forest, on top of the route.

As a toddler, Smith fell into the Sawkill Creek. One of the Ridley girls pulled her out, saving her life.

Her father and his family repaired the bridge when it needed fixing. Now it’s in such a state of disrepair, the five families who depend on the bridge to get anywhere are terrified whenever they cross it. Delivery trucks, utility trucks, garbage trucks — any kind of truck — won’t drive up to their homes.

Smith said she knows how to repair the bridge but isn’t able to do it herself. She has the knowledge, but not the strength. Neither she nor anyone else living across the bridge has the money to fix it. There’s no homeowners’ association because each property has always been owned by individual families, she said.

So Smith has started a Go Fund Me campaign (bit.ly/33B37Wo) to raise money for repairs. As of Friday morning there was more than $3,500 in the fund. But it will take much more than that. Smith estimated it would take at least $40,000 to do the job. If the bridge needs to be replaced, the cost could run into the hundreds of thousands.

Permit needed

Michelle Long, executive director of the Pike County Conservation District, said that, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection’s Northeast Office, the bridge project would probably need a state permit for “Maintenance, Testing, Repair, Rehabilitations, or Replacement of Water Obstructions or Encroachment.” The base cost of the permit is $750.

The Pike County Conservation District does not issue permits. “The bridge would need to be assessed by a professional engineer,” Long said.

In the meantime, Smith is looking at several contractors to see who is best suited to make the bridge safe once again. In a letter to the editor published last week, she asked anyone willing to help or share resources to write her at P.O. Box 449, Milford, PA 18337.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the misidentification of the church made of bricks said to be produced at the brick farm, which is the Presbyterian Church in Milford, not New York City. The Courier regrets the error.