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Ligonier officials post safety notice on new bridge

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Ligonier Township Police have been notified by residents recently that youth have taken to jumping from the recently completed Rose Stepnick Crossing Bridge into Mill Creek.

“People need to know the danger of jumping off a bridge, not knowing what is in the water or how deep the water actually is,” Ligonier Township Chief of Police Michael Matrunics said.

Matrunics sent a memo to his fellow officers to alert them of the behavior. He added that if caught, those jumping off the bridge could possibly be charged with disorderly conduct.

The Ligonier Township Supervisors posted a warning on its website, stating that jumping from the bridge “is not only dangerous but may be considered disorderly conduct and a punishable offense. Any actors caught jumping from the bridge railing into Mill Creek shall be cited and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We urge parents and trail users to remind their youth that this is dangerous and we hope that everyone will take a proactive approach to prevent this from happening.”

Like Matrunics, Larry Shew, a project manager for the Ligonier Valley Rail and Bikeway initiative, is concerned that those jumping into the bridge don't realize precisely what they could be jumping into.

“The water is pretty shallow there, and there's rocks down in there,” he said. “There could be logs floating down through there. It's just not safe to be jumping off from there.”

Shew said the Pennsylvania Rails to Trails Act limits the liability of land owners, trail managers and lessees, so in the case that someone is injured from jumping off the bridge, they might not be held liable.

He added that Ligonier Valley Trail is considering posting signs to warn jumpers.

Susan Huba executive director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association said jumping off the bridge poses dangers that one might not notice from a view from the bridge.

“There are structures usually below the surface that are pounded into the log structures with (reinforcing bar),” she said. “There could be metal, rebar or logs that kids could possibly hit or hurt themselves. Be cautious around those stream structures because the majority of them are underneath the ground surface and under the water.”

Huba said there could also be glass, trash or other debris floating in the water that one might not see.

“It's kind of like an iceberg,” she said of the stream. “You see the top of it, but there's more underneath the water that you might not see.”

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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