Roxbury Land Trust replacing key bridge, enlisting community help

After 30 years of use, Volunteers Bridge that connects the Roxbury Land Trust’s Orzech and River Road Preserves has now been closed for safety purposes.

After 30 years of use, Volunteers Bridge that connects the Roxbury Land Trust’s Orzech and River Road Preserves has now been closed for safety purposes.

Roxbury Land Trust

ROXBURY — Everything has a lifespan and for Volunteers Bridge, which connects the Orzech and River Road preserves in town, the end has been reached.

So the Roxbury Land Trust, which owns and stewards the preserves the bridge connects, is coordinating an effort to build a new, re-purposed bridge in that area — and is enlisting the help of the community to make that happen.

RLT will ask for volunteers to help professionals disassemble and take down and safely dispose of the current Volunteers Bridge.

The cost of the new bridge, which will measure 78 feet long, is $78,500. To donate or for more information, visit www.roxburylandtrust.org.

New bridge

“The bridge is a critical connection to nearly 10 miles of trails that cover more than 650 acres of forest, flora and fauna,” said Ann Astarita, Roxbury Land Trust’s executive director.

It serves as a connection to four of the trust’s preserves: River Road, Erbacher, Orzech, and Golden Harvest.

The original Volunteers Bridge was built entirely by volunteers in 1992. While the bridge has had maintenance when needed, after more than three decades, “time and weather has taken its toll,” said Astarita, adding the bridge has weathered many major storms.

In late 2019, the trustdiscovered, and later acquired, an industrial pipe bridge, which is made of steel with wood plank decking.

According to Astarita, an industrial pipe bridge is stronger and more durable than one constructed from wood, which is what the current bridge is made of.

“Parts of the wooden bridge has been warped by ice, so the metal bridge wouldn’t have that issue,” Astarita said.

The trust put a deposit on the bridge, but when the COVID-19 pandemic came, the project was put on hold until recently.

Planking on the new bridge will be made from lumber from trees that fell during micro-bursts in the last few years.

“Our land and property manager was able to collect that wood and reuse recycled fallen trees and make planking in order to have people walk across safely,” said Dariel Curren, executive vice president of the trust.

The new bridge is now in storage on one of the trust’s preserves. The new site of the bridge will be slightly upriver from its current location, according to Astarita.

“On the current bridge, you have to scramble across a rock face to reach it,” Astarita said. “This new location, which has been approved by the Inland Wetlands Commission in Roxbury, will provide greater access for people to get to the bridge and at least see the views on both sides of the bridge.”

The current Volunteers Bridge is now closed for safety purposes. However, each of the preserves is still accessible through their primary parking lots.

Next steps

Roxbury Land Trust is waiting for the final engineering drawings of the new bridge. They are hoping installation will take place by fall.

“It’s real important to us that this be part of the Volunteers Bridge history and heritage,” Astarita said. “We really like the idea of having a combination of recycling, repurposing, and having the community join in so it’s a true volunteer effort.”

“Our preserves have been a godsend — a haven for people during the pandemic, and these preserves that this bridge connects are no exception,” Curren said. “They’ve been heavily used by walkers, hikers, runners during these times and will continue to be. It’s really a big, beautiful stretch of the Shepaug River.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com