MT. JEWETT --A tornado in July 2003 toppled the midsection of the Kinzua Viaduct and virtually knocked out the area's major tourist attraction.
Mother Nature won this battle, but the ingenuity of man has overcome that setback with the construction of the Kinzua Sky Walk-- a pedestrian walkway built atop the very towers that once supported the historic Kinzua Bridge near Mt. Jewett.
"Out of the disaster of the tornado, the idea to re-invent the park-side towers into the Kinzua Sky Walk was created," Linda Devlin said Thursday at a program prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Sky Walk. "The end result is spectacular."
Devlin is the executive director of the Bradford-based Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau (ANFVB), which has played a major role in reviving the Kinzua Bridge State Park as a destination for tourists.
According to Devlin, "it is estimated that the Kinzua Sky Walk will bring $11.5 million additional tourism revenue into our local economy."
The Sky Walk is a wooden walkway that provides visitors with a panoramic view of the Kinzua Creek Valley and the steel rubble from the bridge-- once the highest railroad span in the world. A glass floor at the valley end of the walkway enables visitors to see the support towers and the trees and vegetation below.
The $4.3-million project, which began in 2009, includes wide paved paths to the Sky Walk from parking lots at McKean County's only state park.Rails still remain in the center of the walkway to remind visitors that trains once crossed the valley on the viaduct. The Knox and Kane Railroad operated an excursion train over the bridge for about 15 years from 1987 to 2002. Bridge-crossings ended in 2002 when it was determined that the bridge needed improvements to be safe. The renovations were under way when the tornado struck and downed the midsection of the bridge.