By Alex Malm
CHESTER – During the July 22 Chester Board of Selectmen meeting the Selectmen discussed the pedestrian bridge at Wason Pond, which has been closed since July 12.
Following torrential rainstorms recently there was damage done across the state from flooding to down power lines and trees due to the wind and rain.
The storm led to the town of Chester to make the decision to close the walking bridge leading to the Wason Pond beach.
“The ‘walking bridge’ that leads to the beach at Wason Pond has been compromised by the heavy rains and is not safe to traverse, either by vehicle or by foot,” a press release posted on the town’s website stated. “The Fire Department is coning it off – please do not attempt to use it. The beach can still be accessed via the covered bridge and trails.”
The walking bridge in Chester is an issue that the town has been dealing with for many years according to Chris Hadik, the chairman of the Wason Pond Conservation & Recreation Commission.
He said that due to beavers building dams underneath the bridge it has caused issues with water flowing for several years.
Most recently the town installed a beaver deceiver, to allow the flow of water to continue to flow despite the beaver dams being there.
Due to the heavy rains it wasn’t enough to combat the effects from the beaver dams causing apparent issues on the bridge forcing the town to make the decision to close the bridge temporarily, until they had the Town Engineer inspect it.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Chuck Myette explained that they received the inspection report that was done by the Town Engineer. He said that it was constructed decades ago so he is not surprised that it has some issues.
“It’s an old structure so it’s not surprising it has some signs of wear and tear,” Myette said.
He also said that the engineer couldn’t evaluate what the weight restrictions should be. At this point the engineer is recommending that it shouldn’t be used for vehicles or people at this point.
“I think we are faced with a short term and a long term discussion and solution,” Myette said.
One of the short term solutions that Myette talked about was to put steel plates over it like they use the highway so people would be able to use the bridge for now. He said that it would be an estimated cost of about $40,000.
Another option that Myette suggested was to construct a temporary bridge on the structure. He said it would cost about $1,200. He said that vehicles wouldn’t be able to drive over it however.
“The long term we probably aren’t going to be able to save that structure itself,” Myette said.
He said that down the road they would have to look at the long-term solutions since they don’t have enough information right now.
One question that was asked by the Selectmen was whether or not having a bridge would impact the fire department.
Acting Fire Chief Philip Gladu said that as of right now they aren’t able to get any of their larger trucks to the beach anyways and that they normally use the gator for medical calls anyways.
Selectmen Stephen Landau said that he thinks the simplest solution is to place jersey barriers on both sides of the bridge.
He said he doesn’t think they have the funds to tear the bridge down and they don’t know what direction they are going in so he doesn’t want to spend funds on it.
“I don’t want to spend any money on it at all,” he said.
Selectmen Stephen D’angelo said that if they are going to put up a jersey barrier then they should also put up a chain link fence and have a sign that says no trespassing.
It was ultimately decided to put up jersey barriers on both sides of the bridge for now along with no trespassing signs, along with a chain link fence to keep people out. They will also have a map explaining how to get to the beach.
They will also have a conversation with the Wason Pond Commission to talk about the short term and long term ideas for the bridge.
The next Chester Board of Selectmen meeting is slated for July 29 at 7 p.m.