A view of the bridges of Frederick County Charm: Survivors LTC of fire, storm and engineering progress, these narrow, covered, wooden spans are reminders of a simpler time.

October 04, 1998|By Randi Kest | Randi Kest,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

In today's Travel section, an article on covered bridges in Maryland does not mention Foxcatcher Farms Covered Bridge in Cecil County. Unlike the other bridges mentioned, Foxcatcher Farms Bridge, located in the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, is not open to vehicles. Open from dawn to dusk daily, it can be walked or bicycled through.

Also, the location given for Jericho Covered Bridge is incorrect. It is found north of Kingsville in Gunpowder Falls State Park.

The Sun regrets the errors.

To some, covered bridges have the allure of lighthouses - charming and romantic while mysterious and historic. For others, they are merely passageways into town - a place where locals must slow down as they speed past cornfields.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Frederick County has three such passageways that sit along curvy country roads and create wondrous backdrops for Western Maryland's countryside. I set out to study them - their shape, history and surroundings. As I sat along the stone abutments on either side of the bridges, enjoying the country serenity, cars whizzed through. The quick drumroll of tires against wooden planks reminded me that these bridges - Utica Mills Bridge, Loy's Station Bridge and Roddy Road Bridge - contain breathtaking echoes of our rural past.

In the late 1800s, more than 50 covered bridges crossed Maryland's waterways, linking some of Maryland's main roadways, including U.S. Route 40 and the Jefferson Pike. Today only five exist, with the highest concentration being in Frederick County. (The other two are Jericho Bridge in Towson and Gilpen's Falls Bridge in Cecil County.)

Fires, storms and progress in engineering claimed most of Maryland's historic covered bridges, but those that remain are preserved carefully. Utica, the last of Frederick County's bridges to be renovated, reopened in the spring of 1997. These bridges are important examples of 19th-century engineering techniques.

These reminders may require some hunting, but fall's cool air provides an ideal opportunity to go exploring.

Utica Mills Bridge is something out of a glossy-paged coffee-table book. Among red and white barns and dried-up cornfields stands this bridge, which was once part of a larger structure that stretched across the Monocacy River where Devilbiss Bridge now stands. In 1889, a flood wiped out half of the original bridge, and the remaining half was transported by wagon to Utica, where it now crosses Fishing Creek.

Pull the car over onto one of the few gravel areas off Utica Road. You can't really experience the beauty of the bridge without walking through it. Get out and stretch; maybe even hop up on the trunk for a minute and just gaze at this outdated structure. The deep-red-painted wood and peaked roof are typical of these restored structures.

Passing cars are few and rarely travel up the quiet road on which the bridge stands. Inside, it feels solid. The shade is a nice reprieve from the sunny fall day. There is only enough room for one car to pass through safely. Posted memos from the New York State Covered Bridge Association, the Ohio Historic Bridge Association and the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania Inc., are scattered along the interior walls. "HELP PRESERVE OUR REMAINING COVERED BRIDGES" says one.

Only about 10 miles from Utica, Loy's Station is a tall and narrow, one-lane covered bridge with the same deep-red paint and peaked roof as Utica. Owens Creek runs under the 100-plus-year-old bridge that is shaded by a canopy of trees and bordered by a large farm. When I was there, a mother and her young son walked the banks of the creek, fishing poles in hand.

Loy's Station Park is spread over a fairly large plot of land, and its covered bridge sits at the northern edge. Loy's is a park area ideal for family days or romantic picnics. It is equipped with tables, grills, trash cans and a playground, and has covered areas that can be reserved for get-togethers.

Because Loy's Station Historic Bridge sits right on Old Frederick Road, it sees much more activity than Utica. Once again sitting on the stone reinforcements, I was startled many times by cars speeding through the delicate structure. When I thought the coast was clear, I peeked around the corner, through the opening and made sure it was safe to walk through. This bridge was much darker and a little eerie. For a minute, I thought I heard the clip-clopping echo of horses' hoofs and the crackling of a drawn wagon approaching, but quickly realized it was a local girl speeding toward me on a moped.

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