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Waterford - Jordan Village residents may soon have walking access to Jordan Mill Park for the first time in six years.
Recreation and Parks Director Brian Flaherty hopes to replace the pedestrian bridge that crosses Jordan Brook by this summer or fall if the Representative Town Meeting approves an emergency appropriation of $46,500. The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen have already approved the funds.
Flaherty says his department originally intended to fix the bridge, which is at least 20 years old, with existing funds. But one delay after another has forced his department to hold off replacing the bridge until the situation became more urgent.
The department closed the 60-foot overpass, located by Jordan Mill off Mill Lane, due to safety concerns. Town Clerk Bob Nye, who lives near the bridge, had pointed out to Flaherty that the bridge was deteriorating.
"It was clear that there was some rust and some deterioration and obviously it just got worse" over time, said Nye.
Currently, the bridge has no floor planks as the Recreation and Parks Department removed them due to the deterioration. Anyone who might try to cross would have to walk on bridge supports. The bridge is cordoned off with a chain link fence and a sign that says "Bridge Closed Unsafe."
"So one little slip, you could be over the dam," said Flaherty.
Without the bridge, people in the village wishing to visit the park must drive or walk about a quarter mile around the brook to the Governor's Landing neighborhood that borders the park.
Residents have told town officials they want a functioning bridge.
"For those already in the village, being able to access the Jordan Mill Park by foot was at one time a valuable part of the village experience, as my wife and I used to enjoy taking our young daughter for walks there on warm evenings," wrote David Bednarz in a letter to the Board of Finance.
With the bridge shut down for six years, selectmen and members of the Board of Finance have openly wondered in recent meetings why Recreation and Parks did not plan for bridge repairs or replacement in past budgets.
Flaherty said delays have made it difficult for his department to plan around the budget season. The State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the owners of Jordan Mill have also asked at times for the Recreation and Parks Department to hold off. Hurricane Sandy also pushed back repairs, diverting attention from the bridge to other repairs needed in town.
This past fall, the department tore up planks on the bridge with the intention of replacing them; however, the department found that further deterioration over the years had made the repairs at least as costly as replacing the span. Consultants at that time advised that the combination of necessary repairs would cost at least $50,000, said Flaherty. With that cost in mind, the department decided replacement was a more economical option.
Flaherty says that a new bridge would last 25 to 30 years.