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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kinzua Bridge State Park Voted Park of the Year

Kinzua Bridge State Park
Voted Park of the Year

By Sandra Rhodes
Visitor & Member Services
Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau

The Kinzua Sky Walk was only open for three months in 2011, and that was enough for the Kinzua Bridge State Park to be voted Park of the Year.

The Kinzua Bridge State Park, home of the Kinzua Sky Walk, was selected as Park of the Year by the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation. Park officials will receive the award during a banquet May 1 at the Harrisburg Country Club.

When submitting the nomination, Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau, expounded on the importance of McKean County’s only state park, which was the home of the historic Kinzua Viaduct from 1882 until the viaduct was destroyed by a tornado in 2003.

“The state park officials realized that this viaduct was an important asset to not only Pennsylvania’s history, but also to the birth of aviation engineering and seized the opportunity to bring the park back to life,” Devlin said. “The power of the winds that day in 2003 could not squelch the devotion people from all over have for the Kinzua Bridge State Park.”

The Kinzua Sky Walk opened in mid-September to record number crowds. In the last quarter of 2011, more than 167,000 people traveled to Mount Jewett to once again walk in the footsteps of history.

“The Kinzua Sky Walk is a testament of those who worked on its past creations,” Devlin said. “It is part of the spirit of those who worked 94 days to erect the first iron bridge; the same spirit of those who built the second steel structure in just four months.

“Today, that torch has been passed to a new set of hands which have taken it and ran – the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.”

The Sky Walk was built on the remaining six towers on the park side of the Kinzua Gorge and features a partial glass floor.

The award is designed to recognize a park for its exemplary or innovative work in customer service; education, programming or recreation; stewardship of the natural, cultural or historic assets; or accommodation of special needs of visitors.

“Like the phoenix column used in the construction of the first bridge, the Kinzua Bridge State Park has emerged from the ashes as a must-see attraction in Pennsylvania.”

Photo by Ed Bernick