At the ribbon cutting ceremony, town manager Scott Murphy thanked Wilmington residents Marsha and Barry Reardon for donating the bridge to the town.
Reardon recalled reading about a proposal for a pedestrian bridge in The Deerfield Valley News. The bridge had initially been proposed more than a decade before the flood, but when it resurfaced during brainstorming sessions on flood recovery, Reardon told his wife “I think this is something for us to be involved in.”
Reardon said he called Wilmington Trails Committee Chair John Greene and asked if anyone had stepped forward to pay for the bridge yet. Hearing the expected answer, Reardon volunteered to fund the project.
And Reardon did more than provide funding, he also worked with engineers to design a bridge that would meet his specifications – attractive, and wide enough for people going in opposite directions to pass without having to squeeze by each other. After talking to more than two dozen firms, he narrowed the field down to eight, then two, eventually choosing Renaud Brothers, of Vernon. “We wanted to use a Vermont company,” Reardon said.
Last fall, Renaud Brothers told Reardon they would deliver the bridge on May 15 and, true to their word, the bridge arrived in three pieces, was assembled on site, and lifted onto the abutments on May 15.
“We’re very happy to give this bridge to you,” Reardon told the crowd. With that, the Reardons cut a red ribbon strung across the end of the bridge, officially opening the bridge.
Before the crowd could disperse, Murphy stepped forward, this time with a bronze plaque naming the bridge “Reardon’s Crossing. A gift to the town from Barry and Marsha Reardon.”
Greene says the town plans to do some landscaping on both sides of the bridge. The beautification work is on hold until utility companies can move a utility pole on one side of the bridge.
The Reardons’ gift will connect several trails, including some trails that the town has been working on for years. The bridge will connect the Hoot, Toot, and Whistle Trail, the Village Walk (formerly the River Walk), and the Valley Trail.
According to Green, the HT&W Trail may be ready for hikers this summer. Right of way issues have been worked out between the town and TransCanada, and some trail construction still remains. The trail will eventually run from the south side of the bridge along the river as far as the Mountain Mills picnic area at the end of Fairview Avenue. Initially, the walkway may skirt construction at the DVTA MOOver site. “We’re just waiting on a couple of (state) permits now and, while there’s no guarantee, we think we’ll have them soon,” Greene said.
Until the HT&W trail is open, walkers can cross the new bridge to access Plywood Street, which connects to Mill Street, and return to town by walking along Shafter Street and Castle Hill Road.
Greene says the Valley Trail, which runs from Dover to Wilmington, has been in the works for more than 20 years and this year, the Wilmington leg of the trail may be open for the first time. The trail access will be farther west on the road, closer to Nido’s Service Station. Greene says the Valley Trail will run through Chimney Hill, to Haystack, and to Crosstown Road. Trail right of way issues that have held up completion of the trail for years have recently been resolved, Greene said.
The committee is also working on another trail from White’s Road to Lake Raponda. Coupled with an existing trail from Lisle Hill Road to White’s Road, Greene says hikers will be able to walk from Lake Whitingham to Lake Raponda. “It looks like we’re going to have a lot of trail work this summer,” Greene said.