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Monday, May 18, 2009

The laughable state of the bridge situation....until you consider the ramifications that is!

So we have been informed that the bridge at the bottom of Watermark Road is over 100 years old. There is a marble date stone that is engraved with the words - County Bridge #21 REBUILT in 1915 and then the listings of the powers that be at that time. So while I have a BFA, my math skills tell me that the bridge is not quite a full century...but I digress. In any case, the current powers that be state that Bridge #21 is the 'third WORST bridge in Chester County'. I guess that haven't been over this one is a while...and it is just over 3 miles from the top of Watermark Road & Homeville Road, still in Chester County.

Can you see the large gaps between the bridge abuttment and the girder?

And check out the really fine masonry that has been painstakingly 'touched up' over the years...

This is where the situation gets more interesting! If you care to scroll back to the photos of the decking (road surface) of Bridge #21, it has been seamlessly edged with tar to meet the concrete on the sides of the bridge...not so here!

And YES that is WOOD that lies beneath the pavement - exposed to the elements and constant traffic. There are plants and grass growing in the cracks and along the 'edges' of the bridge.

Oh, did I mention the WOODEN surface of the bridge decking is fully exposed???

Or perhaps this is another simulated, strangely similar looking material that only LOOKS like wood???

The large potholes and seaming are just a joy to drive over at anything above 5 MPH...but you would have to take my word for it unless you care to drive over this fine bit of construction for yourself.

Oh, but take care!!! It is most definitely a one lane bridge with barely enough room for a car!

Can you believe that it is rated for 40 Ton Combinations???

Would you feel safe driving over this bridge with that large a tonnage?

Which brings me to the unpleasant part of this blog post -

Bridge #21 at the bottom of Watermark Road is in clear view of the main barn and house. Two of our pastures, plus that of our neighbors touch the bridge. As of late, the various engineering firms have been sending representatives who have granted themselves access to the bridge by taking our fence down, opening the gate that is within 60' of the bridge on the south side and having a gander about the property. It would be nice if those individuals could remember the number one rule my mother taught me - Leave things just as you found them!!!! Our fence has been taken apart, the gate left wide open and this has been several times each day. These engineers have _lovely_ manners, don't you think?

It may appear to outsiders that this is a quiet little country farm - but if you take a moment and browse through the website (, it is actually a business! With all the recent traffic several large problems have developed. (amazing, isn't it???) Who is liable if our (or our neighbors) livestock gets loose onto the road and causes a fatality? A horse vs. motor vehicle is no small accident, or laughing matter. We have had ONE group walk up to the house, greet us and ask permission to enter the pasture. One. Out of over 20 vehicles. The individual came to the driveway ONLY because I was returning from SBS and confronted him as he was studying the fence in front of him.


This is private property and the constant traffic has our dogs more than a little upset. Their constant barking is driving Dad crazy. Remember he has his office in the house? Well, if they are inside, they don't stop barking. Hmmmm, I wonder what his clients think of all the racket?!?!

Did I say liability earlier?

Hmmm, let's see...a bunch of our clients have young horses. What is the statistic on riding horses compared to motorcycles? Which one is more dangerous? That's right! Riding a horse is more dangerous than riding a motorcycle!! So add in a young horse that is just learning to carry the weight of a rider and the dogs going ballistic within earshot, a nervous rider or two, oh, and now let's add some heavy construction vehicles, a crane, a demolition crew and the chaos and noise of tearing down and rebuilding a bridge within clear view of the riding arena! Wow! Our business is going to take off now!!!

Oh wait! This gets better as we extrapolate this situation...

It is easy to foresee the collapse of the lesson and training business due to the construction project, is it not? Our insurance company is already notified of the upcoming excitement in the neighborhood - they are going to get back to us shortly with potential policy increases (totally understandable) as our liability is going through the roof. So if we decrease the income from the lessons and training, then hmmmmm, what income contributes to funding the farm????? Crop farming? Hmmmm, we're not large enough for that. Horse sales? Well, if it isn't safe to work the horses, that means they are not getting training, so then they are unsaleable. That means the population of the farm animals will increase, the income decreases. Ok. Table that bit of information for a second.

Now where is the bridge located in relation to our pastures?

It is bordered with the 6 acres that make up the pasture across the street. The stream (Muddy Run) is the only source of fresh water those horses have other than a few fresh water springs that feed the old Mill Pond on the flood plain. On the same side of Watermark Road as our barn, we have a 2 acre pasture that is also stream fed. In recent years, we have allowed the natural flora to reclaim the stream banks as erosion was a concern in the 80's. Since then this smaller area has been used as a space for the competition horses to be turned loose. It is the perfect size for one or two horses to get just enough space to stretch their legs without having enough space to cause problems or injure themselves. It is also a great space for mares and foals to have their first access to an unsupervised (off lead) experience together. So that is two areas of the farm that are essential components of how we utilize our acreage to maximize the topographical benefits of pastured equines. Clear so far?

So according to the powers that be the bridge project is going ahead with or without our consent...

We will loose 2 pastures. Our horses could not drink water that is run off from a construction site. The paint on that bridge and the paper mill sediments that would be disturbed are not suitable for consumption by livestock or humans. The competition horses and mares and foals can NOT be turned out in a space with heavy equipment. Too risky to the animals that have the most invested in them. (training and being competition ready costs money and is an investment for those who are not horse lingo savvy)

So let's review...we will lose the lesson business, the sales horses, the training business, the boarding business, the competition horses will have no turn out - oh wait, I forgot, they will not be able to be trained in the areas due to the noise and disruption on the road.

Oh shoot, the road!!! I forgot that there is a road there! That comes into play too! We have a 3 acre parcel directly across Ray Mar Road from our main barn. The access has always been over Bridge #21. If the bridge is out, hmmmm, who wants to drive the 10 miles to get access to the hay field? Hay needs cutting, then tedding, then raking, then baling and then the tractor, the rake, the tedder, the discbine, the baler and all the wagons need to be brought back to the farm. Wow. 10 miles for each piece of equipment. Each time that it is needed - on average 6 trips per cutting of hay, 3 cuttings each year (minimum) an average of 180 miles more for the tractors that have a top speed of 20 MPH, so 9 more hours spent just driving the equipment to the field each year. Due to the high value of some of the equipment and the fact it can not get wet, well, just keep adding more hours into each day to drive the tractor to where it needs to be with each piece of equipment. A change in the forecast is certainly going to change the outcome and planning of making hay now!

So let's add up the details thus far -

Scratch the lesson business, the boarding, the training, the competition and sales horses, the farming on that side of the bridge (unless we want to spend $1000s of dollars on fuel), the pastures....hmmm, is there anything else? Oh wait, Dad's management business. That would about cover it! That would mean all forms of income for The Rawle Family would vanish completely.

I guess the county is making their wishes known as to where they stand.

It is remarkably silly of me to not have thought of this sooner!

The farm will be sold into development! What a simple solution!

The larger bridge can withstand more traffic - which there certainly would be with a few hundred houses on this road! We have 105 acres...that should subdivide nicely into what, 150? 200? 1/2 acre lots? Actually, to maximize the $$'s per acre, I wonder if condo's and a golf community could be built here? The main house isn't really large enough to be a club house, but there are possibilities...I once went to a party in a renovated barn! It had been converted into a 4 story banquet hall with some of the most incredible lighting and use of spaces. I'll have to dig out the contact number for that couple! They paid big bucks for the architect to do his magic but it was a lovely space!!!

How clever of the local and regional governments to have thought so far in advance for me!!! Wow, Mom and Dad have been so clever to not sell the development rights!

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