Oct 112012

A panoramic view of Fitch's Bridge

A panoramic view of Fitch’s Bridge

A few weeks ago now, Apple released an operating system update to their iPad and iPhone with a new built-in maps app. What is the Groton part of an Apple update? There was a bit of a stir about the new maps in iOS6 because Apple was taking on map giant Google, and there are lots of people in town who have iPhones and iPads. If you live in West Groton and ask the iPhone for directions to Town Hall, the iPhone offers a driving route across Fitch’s Bridge… which has not been passible since 1966. But I urge you to change that at Town Meeting next week.

Is the iPhone map out of date or predicting the future?

Is the iPhone map out of date or predicting the future?

Our aging and historic Fitch’s Bridge is named for Zachariah Fitch, one of the original maintainers of 1740. Starting in 1990 the Groton Master Plan identified expanding and connecting a trail and pathway system in town as a priority. It’s been a key part of each Master Plan revision since then. In the twenty-two years since then, various volunteers and employees have worked to find funding pursuing all possible options for the town-owned bridge. Recently, after completing a thorough investigation of the possibility of restoring this 1898 steel structure with sixty thousand dollars of CPA funds, it was determined that financially it was not feasible to restore the bridge because the estimated construction cost is in the range of 1.5 – 2 million. The Committee returned the remaining twenty thousand dollars of CPA money to the Town. The investigative restoration monies spent can be applied to the cost of replacement bridge design and the reports mean that the Historical Commission has an excellent record of the bridge.

At Fall Town Meeting on October 15, the next chapter for Fitch’s Bridge will unfold in Article Nineteen. The Groton Greenway Committee has advised the Board of Selectmen and the town that the most cost efficient option for the bridge would be for the town to replace the bridge with a new trail bridge at a cost that is estimated to be no greater than $800,000. The bridge, paid for with local funds, can be built to carry hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. They’ll enjoy a quiet and beautiful view of the river while walking or riding all the way to Town Forest along the trail network.

The timing for the new bridge could not be better. Construction costs are low. So are municipal borrowing costs, which we can take advantage of now. Groton is in great financial health with or without a new fire station and Lost Lake Sewer. All possible external funding, including state and federal options, have been exhaustively pursued. But perhaps most important is the potential liability of the current bridge falling into the river or being an attractive nuisance for kids who like to jump off the bridge while partying. But this is only a warning: nothing, knock on wood, has happened.

If you agree that it is time the town replaced the bridge, that the bridge proposal is a reasonable price, that it is important to protect the town’s liability, and continue to expand the trail network that helps make Groton a great place to live. Please come to town meeting and vote Yes on Article 19. Please look at the exhaustive frequently asked questions that are online at http://goo.gl/HdBaV and show your support on our Facebook and Twitter pages by letting us know what you think online or off.


David Pitkin
517 Pepperell Road
Groton Greenway Committee, Member