The latest issue of Waterville Valley’s monthly news magazine, the Wig Wag, had a letter from property owner, Beth Reynolds, asking about the new walkway that was recently constructed on West Branch Road – on the downhill descent to the one-lane bridge. Some residents are questioning the need for the walkway. Reynolds wrote, “Access to the Mad River Trail (which is heavily used by walkers, runners, etc.) has been out since Tropical Storm Irene destroyed the bridge. And how about the pathway from the Conference Center to Town Square?…Who funded that elaborate work on West Branch and is this the best use of town finances?”
Wig Wag editor/publisher/investigative reporter/sleuth, David Britton, wrote in response…
The walkway was designed by Jim Ducharme of CMA Engineers in Manchester, a firm that frequently does work for the town. The state often has regulations that require the services of a licensed engineer. The cost of the walkway will be $104,000. The town will pay the high proportion of this figure. The walkway is necessary to, according to Mark Decoteau [town manager], “address a pressing safety issue.” In addressing this safety issue, the walkway was not the town’s first choice. The town’s first choice was to cut back the right turn that begins the descent to the bridge. This choice would have required the consent of affected property owners. It would have cut a number of trees, possibly increased the traffic on West Branch Road, and would have been financed largely by a grant from the Rural Development Program. (Federal money, even when just printed up for the occasion, still comes out of the pockets of taxpayers.)…Bicycles will not use this walkway. Nor will there be snow clearance in the winter.
Regarding the replacement of the Mad River Bridge, the huge steel bridge washed downstream by Irene. This bridge will be replaced at a cost of $425,000, 75% of which will be paid by federal funds, the remainder split between the town and the ski area. One reason the cost is so high is that the state requires extensive permitting, plans by engineers and – in this case – a bridge more than 10 feet longer and with greater clearance above the high water mark of the river.
Regarding the old footbridge between the Conference Center and Town Square. That bridge and the pathway are privately owned. Though it might be a simple matter for the owners to rebuild a wooden footbridge, the state’s Department of Environmental Services (among others) requires permits and suitable plans drawn by licensed engineers. Satisfying the state can be a time consuming and ultimately expensive process. If I owned that property, I might just plant some flowers and recommend sturdy shoes.
Here are a couple of photos I took of the new walkway in question.