Guest blog, originally posted in Extant Magazine’s Winter 2019 edition here
When Fisher’s Lane Bridge was built across Tacony Creek in the late 18th century, its namesake roadway connected Frankford and Germantown townships as it meandered through the expansive farmlands of what is now North Philadelphia. Fisher’s Lane today is a mere stub, reduced by more than two centuries of urban expansion and grid realignment. The stone-arched span, though, still stands proudly. It is the second oldest bridge in the city and one of Tacony Creek Park’s most significant historic resources.
For the dedicated park stewards of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Fisher’s Lane Bridge is both a beloved symbol of the waterway’s rich history and a microcosm of the complex challenges that have beleaguered the park for decades. An increasingly popular destination for hikers, bicyclists, bird-watchers and other park users, the bridge also remains a magnet for vandalism, short-dumping, unsanctioned swimming and illegal ATV traffic. Water erosion has led to bridge scour, which undermines the bridge’s foundations, while vehicle collisions have compromised portions of its parapet walls, now replaced with concrete.
The bridge and the surrounding parkland will remain vulnerable to adverse impacts as long as Fisher’s Lane continues to connect to the privately owned Fisher’s Glen Driving Range. Park advocates have long urged the city to acquire the driving range. The Philadelphia Streets Department could then close Fisher’s Lane to vehicle traffic before the bridge deteriorates to a condition beyond repair. Restoring the bridge as a pedestrian gateway to Tacony Creek Park would be a transformative step in the continued rehabilitation of this vital urban greenway.