Visitors familiar with Bull's Bridge and neighboring trails in Kent might be in for a surprise when they arrive there these days.

Large boulders now block parking along Bull's Bridge Road on the west side of the historic covered bridge. The parking area has been closed and gated.

Changes to the popular tourist attraction now force visitors to park in a lot on the east side of the bridge and walk through the covered bridge to reach the Appalachian Trail area.

FirstLight Power Resources, owner of the hydro-electric plant there, was required to make the changes to obtain licensing from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams is among those concerned.

"There are a number of problems that have been created," Mr. Adams said. "There's pedestrian safety with people walking through the narrow bridge and people are now parking beside the boulders, narrowing an already narrow and busy road."

A Sept. 6 meeting is set with the River Advisory Committee that required the changes. Mr. Adams hopes to convince the committee to reopen the west side lot. FirstLight agreed Tuesday to keep the gates unlocked on the west side parking area for the next 60 to 90 days until a resolution could possibly be reached, he said.

"The River Advisory Committee had good intentions but a safety issue has been created," he said. "Hopefully, with the September meeting, it will be realized that, while the river has to be preserved, human safety comes first."

FirstLight spokesman Charles Burnham said, "A recreation management plan was required as part of our approval for the FERC license. We worked with stakeholders in the environmental preservation of the area over five or six years to develop it."

Those stakeholders include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

"Concerns were with environmental, littering and parking issues," Mr. Burnham said. "The thought was that with people parking on the east side and walking across the bridge, they would be more likely to hike than camp along the trail."

Thus, not bringing in items that would remain behind after their visit as litter, he said. Also, eliminating parking on the west side of the bridge would reduce vehicular traffic across the bridge -- thus preserving the structure.

"We want to make the area user-friendly and as safe as possible while meeting the FERC requirement," Mr. Burnham said.

"We have heard Mr. Adams' concerns and we understand them," he added, noting the final word is up to the stakeholders.

"If the overwhelming sentiment is to reopen the other lot," Mr. Burnham concluded, "we will be happy to interface with the stakeholders again."

"There are a number of problems that have been created. There's pedestrian safety with people walking through the narrow bridge and people are now parking beside the boulders, narrowing an already narrow and busy road."

Bruce Adams

Kent first selectman