Monday, July 7, 2014

It takes a team

By Beth Sullivan
Sometimes when a property is acquired, it comes with structures in place, and sometimes issues come right along with them!
The Anguilla Brook is a lovely, long, clear running waterway. It has its origins up near the North Stonington Town line and winds its way through Pawcatuck. Portions of its path are protected by concerned and caring private owners. After it flows under Route 1 in Pawcatuck it winds behind what is referred to as Birdland-a neighborhood of bird-named streets. Several years ago, Avalonia acquired a tract of land now referred to as the Anguilla Brook Preserve-Birdland tract. Access is difficult, technically only a right of way along the railroad tracks off Green Haven Road-not the safest or easiest way in. In a special agreement with some private landowners, we are able to get in more easily when we need to do our annual reviews and posting.
We discovered it is quite a lovely and extensive wetland area that spreads out and beyond the actual brook. There were trails established throughout the area utilized by local residents and kids taking short cuts. What we also discovered was an aging and quite unstable bridge crossing a branch of the brook. It was quite obvious that kids likely rode bikes through there, and it was also obvious that it was an accident waiting to happen.

The bridge was deemed unsafe.

Debris blocked the flow and the railroad ties were rotted.

We made it a priority to get in and remove the bridge with the hopes of replacing it as soon as possible. However, the demolition and removal was going to be quite an undertaking! The span was more than 20 feet across, and over the years, banks had eroded. It was originally made with a stacked base of railroad ties that were now soaked and rotting. The whole thing needed to be dismantled.
Thanks to Yankee ingenuity, good heads, and team work, a posse of stewards took on the bridge last week. Five members of the Stonington Town Committee got to work; two spearheaded the effort and hatched the plan-complete with crowbars, pulleys, block and tackle, lots of strong rope, and a pick up truck! Two more donned boots to wade into the water to attack the base, and another hauled pieces out and up the trail.
The decking was removed.

Some of the decking was saved for use as wet trail crossing with the help of a pickup.
The decking was removed, and a large portion of it was cut and recycled to make ground level wetlands crossings on other preserves. The pieces were towed, like a big sled, out to the trail where they were stacked into trucks. Huge spikes were pulled from the railroad ties, and were left to line the trail. Maybe they will be moved when they dry and are lighter…or maybe not! The debris blocking the flow was cleared and rocks were set into place to protect the banks from further erosion. There are still some ties left in place to maintain the water level in the pond. Rock hopping will easily get you across the brook. We marked the trail with caution tape and left ties blocking the path, lest someone go biking along expecting a bridge!
Caution tape, signs, and trail barriers warn bikes that the bridge is out.

The brook can now flow freely yet can still be crossed on foot.
We are waiting for some long poles promised to us by our DEEP connections. That may be a while as this is busy season for all DEEP workers.
The water flows nicely now. We no longer worry that the bridge will break under the weight of a person or a bike. We still can’t get into the preserve easily; it will remain remote. We are very grateful for those land owners who allowed us to move our equipment through their roadway to access the site.
It takes a lot of cooperation to undertake such an effort. We will let you know when the bridge goes in. Thanks to all!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan and Binti Ackley.

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