Conservancy History

Shenango Conservancy History 1986-2010

The Shenango Conservancy was formed on January 10, 1986 dedicated to historic preservation and conservation of natural resources in the Shenango River watershed.

Annual Events: Since its founding in 1986, the Conservancy has conducted annual Spring wild flower and fall leaf hikes on the Shenango Trail. In June, the Conservancy conducts a canoe trip on the Shenango River starting at the Kidd’s Mill Bridge to celebrate Pennsylvania River Month. Starting in 1987, the Conservancy has held an Annual Dinner and/or an annual members meeting as a means of getting membership together and to educate the public in line with the organization’s purpose.

Starting in 1988, the Conservancy began holding the annual Gobble Wobble 5K in Buhl Park on Thanksgiving Day. This event is a fund raiser for the Conservancy.  More than 1700 participants crossed the finish line at the 2011 Gobble Wobble.  For the past nine years the Conservancy has donated a tree to the Buhl Farm Arboretum following the race.

Other Key Dates in Conservancy History

1986-1990:   The Conservancy restored the Kidds Mill Covered Bridge.  The bridge was built in 1868, it is the only historic covered bridge in Mercer County, and only one of its kind in Pennsylvania (Smith-truss design).  The Conservancy’s efforts in restoring the Bridge were subsequently honored with a “Take Pride in America” award and a “Take Pride in Pennsylvania” award, the first ever “Take Pride in Mercer County” award, and a commendation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

1992: The Conservancy was awarded a $10,000 grant from the State of Pennsylvania for the relocation and restoration of the historic Bigler House.  The home was built in the 1840’s by John and William Bigler who in 1852 simultaneously became governors of California and Pennsylvania, respectively.  The home was built for, and became the residence their mother, Susan Dock Bigler.

1993 to present:  The Conservancy relocated the Bigler House in September 1993 to an acre of land donated to the Conservancy adjacent to the Kidds Mill Bridge Park.  Restoration efforts were completed in 1999.  The Bigler House at its present location has been the subject of considerable vandalism, so in  in 2008 the Conservancy joined together with the Munnel Run Farm Foundation on a joint project to relocate the Bigler House to the grounds of Munnel Run Farm in Mercer where the Bigler house should be able to enjoy an existence where there is significant public presence and also free from vandalism.

2002 to  2008: The Conservancy has served as the sponsor of a $250,000 PA DEP Growing Greener Grant for the Shenango River Watershed Riparian Improvement Project.  This project, being carried out by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in conjunction with the California State University, consists of stream fencing, livestock crossings, livestock watering systems and wetlands enhancements and protection on farms in Crawford, Mercer and Lawrence Counties.  The Conservancy applied to as the sponsor for a second $250,000 PA Growing Greener Grant to continue this project in February, 2004.

1993 to present:   The Conservancy accepted a 25 year lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 8 acres of land adjacent to the Kidds Mill Covered Bridge.  The Conservancy’s long range plans are to develop this 8 acres of land into the Kidds Mill Bridge Park with naturalized plantings, a canoe launch, and a comfort station (rest room facility).

During 1994, the Conservancy, with the aid of the PCC, was able to begin the development of the Kidds Mill Bridge Park picnic area and nature trail, a trail bridge connecting the Park with the Bigler House site, and landscaping at both sites.  The comfort station was constructed at Kidds Mill Bridge Park in 1994-95.  The canoe launch was constructed in July of 2004 with its dedication at the annual Member’s Meeting on July 31, 2004.

In addition to the annual maintenance of the Bridge, comfort station, trail bridge, canoe launch, Bigler House, and the Kidd’s Mill Bridge Park, the Conservancy also helps maintain the 8 mile Shenango Hiking Trail, one end of which is located in the Kidds Mill Bridge Park.  The Conservancy would like to continue this development process and ultimately complete and maintain the above interrelated projects.

The Conservancy has several hundred dues paying members, and maintains an annual membership drive.  The Conservancy publishes a newsletter on an intermittent basis depending on what is going on within the organization.  In the past we have conducted craft festivals at the bridge, appeared at various local arts and craft festivals and been engaged to speak publicly to inform others about our organization and our projects.  Both the bridge and the Bigler House have been stops on various historic tours held in Mercer County, and we have also supplied tour guides and speakers for these events.

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