Public/private partnership is needed to preserve wonderful old structure
Published 3:55 pm, Wednesday, July 31, 2013
New Milford can claim the distinction of having two old bridges in the National Register of Historic Places.
Lover's Leap Bridge and Boardman Bridge are two of the last remaining lenticular through truss bridges in Connecticut, and they both date back to the end of the 19th century.
The bridges are proud living monuments to another era in local, state and American history.
Well, at least one of them is.
Lover's Leap Bridge, which spans the Housatonic River in southern New Milford, just upstream from Lake Lillinonah, is an attractive, restored structure.
The bridge is neat to look at for those crossing the adjacent Charles H. Marsh Memorial Bridge, which has handled vehicular traffic for the past three decades, and it offers pedestrians the chance to walk across the river and take in the gorgeous sights.
Boardman Bridge, on the other hand, is in pretty sad shape. And that is a crying shame.
The 1888 structure -- seven years older than its sister bridge a few miles to the south -- was also long ago replaced by a modern bridge to handle the traffic it used to serve.
But the old bridge has not been restored, and it shows.
Sadly, the historic Boardman Bridge is rusted and decayed, and bushes and vines have grown out of control at both ends of the bridge.
We believe it would be a shame if the bridge were allowed to deteriorate to the point that it would be beyond restoration and would have to be destroyed.
We believe Boardman Bridge should be restored, like Lover's Leap Bridge, so that future generations can enjoy the majesty of the past.
There is just one problem: It would cost a lot of money -- Murphy estimates more than $2 million -- to properly restore Boardman Bridge.
And in this continuing difficult economy, funds like that are hard to come by.
The best bet, we think, is some sort of public/private partnership in which government and residents each kick in a portion of the monies needed to save the bridge.
Murphy notes she received a commitment of $180,000 in federal funding for the project in 2011, but that was nowhere near enough to do the job.
The funding picture at both the state and federal level is still bleak, which means a major donor needs to step forward or a fundraising campaign needs to be conducted.
We often hear residents of Greater New Milford lament the condition of Boardman Bridge and express the desire for it to be restored.
Will enough of them put their money where their mouth is to make a difference?
And who will volunteer to become the point person for a campaign to save the bridge?
If no resident is willing to lead the charge, and if the public does not match its rhetoric with its dollars, then Boardman Bridge -- and an important piece of history -- will be doomed.
Zarba says the structure of the bridge is still strong, but he emphasizes it will soon start deteriorating beyond repair if it is not restored.
We sincerely hope there is someone out there who will step up to the plate and become the leader of the campaign to save Boardman Bridge.
We think it would be wonderful if there were someone out there, too, with the resources to contribute a big chunk of the needed funds.
We are confident town leaders would do all they could to obtain as much grant money as possible from Hartford and Washington.
And we would count on the public to do its part in kicking in some cash.
It may not look like it now, but Boardman Bridge is a wonderful old structure.
It deserves to be saved.