By Kim Siebert MacPhail
A footbridge over wetlands near Lantern Lane that was not authorized by the Conservation Commission may have to be removed, despite its sophisticated construction and design. The issue came to light during an August 14th meeting of the Trails Committee, an ad hoc subcommittee of the Conservation Commission. The group met to discuss, among other items, placement of bog bridges that have been constructed by Trail Committee members with the intention of improving public access to conservation areas through wetland regions.
Chairman Tim Gray referred to the structure as a “mysterious bridge,” saying no one seems to know how it came to be there. The bridge, which is 15 feet long and 3 feet wide and has concrete footings, was described as really sturdy and a “reasonably good engineering job.” A notice has been placed on the bridge to alert whoever installed it to contact the DPW. “You really can’t just take it out,” said Trails Committee member Mark Levine. “You have to give whoever put it in an opportunity to take it out themselves.”
“The summer [trail working] kids found it and raised a big flag. DPW is not going to touch it until due notice is given,” said DPW Engineer Adrienne St. John.
The reasons the bridge may have to be removed, despite its sturdiness, are that it is on town land, in the right-of-way of a sewer easement for Lantern Lane and is in the 100-year flood plain. Bridges over wetlands on town property must go through an authorization process that includes site analysis and vegetation study. Because, according to St. John,this process had not been followed, Conservation Administrator Elizabeth Bagdonas and the Conservation Commission agreed at their last meeting to file an emergency order to have the bridge removed.
“Regardless of who put it there, one of the issues of leaving it alone is that if the brook comes to flood level, the bridge could cause a blockage,” said St. John. “The second issue is that Elizabeth Bagdonas doesn’t know how it was made and whether it’s safe.”
“I’ve looked at it,” said Levine. “It’s a wonderful job. If I was going to build a bridge, I’d build it that way. The only thing that I would do is attach some cables to the ground so that in case we get a 100-year flood, it doesn’t wash away. It may be displaced, but it wouldn’t wash downstream.”
“We have some bandit bridge builder who builds great bridges,” said Gray. “But being the bad guy from the Conservation, here, we have two problems. One, we would have to get it permitted in the best of circumstances. Two, it is a little worrisome that if we just leave it in, we’re telling people, ‘Build whatever you want and we’ll just permit it later.’”
“But is it fair to say that most bandit bridge builders won’t do such a thorough job and you won’t feel guilty ripping it out?” asked committee member Dan Hurwitz.
“It’s a very sound bridge,” added Levine. “It’s better than any bridge we’ve seen in town.” But,” he continued, “even if the Conservation requirements can be met with an inspection of the structure and vegetation study, a larger issue should be addressed.If everything works out with the bridge and it remains in place with approval, it still doesn’t cover the boggy area beyond the bridge to make a complete access to Wilderness [Conservation Area.] We still have a 65-75 foot boggy area to get over and when it’s wet, it’s wet—it’s not passable. That’s why people have been putting pallets in there. Whatever we do, we should do a complete job. You ought to be able to walk from the pavement of Lantern Lane into Wilderness.”
“In the short term, we’ll do a filing [with the Conservation Commission,]” said St. John. “The filing will include a vegetation analysis and a condition rating on the bridge.”
“Yes, that and because this is a bad time of year for something like that from us because we’re so busy with other things,” replied St. John.“Elizabeth [Bagdonas] is aware of that.”
Other Trail Committee News
Committee members have constructed11 new bog bridges and have enough materials to build ten more. The funds for materials are included in the DPW budget, but the bridges are built and put in place using volunteer labor.
One of the completed bridges is earmarked for the Valente Land (the Old Shawsheen Reservoir); two are intended for Governor Winthrop (off of Springs Road and Copeland Drive); four are for the area between Railroad Avenue and Elm Street; and four more are for the Springs Brook land. Approval for placement is awaited from the Conservation office.
DPW Engineer Adrienne St. John calculated that theSprings Brook area will need several more bog bridges even after the four remaining already-completed bridges are installed. It is also estimated that the Massport land in West Bedford needs five bridges, but the Town has not yet received the legal approval it needs from the agency in order to move ahead.
To access Bedford’s trail maps, visit: https://www.bedfordma.gov/index.php/trail-maps