Solution for Patton Bridge Road troubles may be near

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot
Patton Bridge Road ends in a turnaround for Antrim Township snowplows, a gate to a farm field, and the Conococheague Creek nearby. The isolated road has become a place for partying and a dumping site. A toilet lays in a ditch to the right.

The problems at the end of Patton Bridge Road did not go away after residents spoke to Antrim Township supervisors two years ago. The people most affected were back Sept. 13 to insist that the board do something to make the place safer and cleaner.

Glenn Dice, his daughter Heidi Yaukey, who lives at the end of the lane, and attorney Paul Schemel asked Antrim to close the end of the road and move the gate forward. They believed the action would limit the number of people who used the private property at the bottom as a place for parties, dumping trash, using drugs or sexual activity. All had been witnessed in an area where children lived. The end of the road did not provide for parking, but that didn't stop "the bad guys" from repeatedly visiting the site.

"There is no legitimate purpose for anyone to go down that road," said Schemel. "Anyone walking to the Conococheague Creek is trespassing."

During a discussion that became contentious, with the citizens expressing frustration and anger, Yaukey said people had even fired off guns. Her kids played in the creek, and when she once heard gunshots, "I ran like hell to make sure my son was safe."

Dice, who previously owned the land on both sides of the road in front of the gate, had done his share of hauling away commodes, oil containers, beer bottles, pizza boxes, sofas and other trash left along the township's roadway.

In 2009 Patton Bridge was identified by PA CleanWays as one of 12 roads in the township that were illegal dumping grounds. Administrator Brad Graham at the time said there were even more, and local taxpayers paid for the cleanup when employees went out.

In November 2009, Dice and William Yaukey asked Antrim to keep the area clean and to move the gate. The Park Committee recommended they put out signs about no parking or littering, and that the area was private property. Heidi Yaukey said that was done but the signs were shot or torn down.

She and Dice were unhappy that supervisor Rick Baer had not followed up on the situation from their first meeting, as he said he would, and Antrim had not returned recent phone calls. Pennsylvania State Police had been called many times and asked what the township was doing to alleviate the situation.

Baer, Curtis Myers, Fred Young III, James Byers and Sam Miller wanted people who only planned to fish or canoe the creek to be able to get to it.

Two years ago the park committee had researched the number of access points to the creek. It came up with nine public roads that were near the Conococheague, including Lehman, Guitner, Coldsmith, Stonebridge, Williamson, Rabbit, Route 16, Weaver and Patton Bridge, as well as the Martin's Mill Bridge park. However, the committee was in the process of verifying whether the right-of-way was wide enough to allow parking and walking to the water. It shelved the project, at least temporarily, because the public was not in favor of a water trail in the township, as the committee members had hoped. The two private access points identified, in which property owners did allow people to get to the creek, were at Talhelm's Gas Station and Greencastle Sportsmans Club.

A motion and second by Byers and Young to keep ownership of the road failed 2-3. Later Miller and Baer moved to start proceedings to relocate the gate closer to the houses and close the end of the road. It passed 3-2, with Myers also in favor.

Yaukey agreed to pay the thousands of dollars of expenses required to pay for advertising a hearing, since the ordinance would have to be changed; a necessary survey; recording and attorney fees; and creating a turnaround for the snowplows. She said the safety of her children was worth it.

"A child's life is worth more than any public access," agreed Myers. "But if this doesn't work, it's all we can do."