BELMONT — After three years of planning, measuring, driving nails and engineering, a 50-foot piece of a former pedestrian bridge that crossed the Cocheco River in Dover is now in place, spanning the Tioga River behind the Belmont Mill.
The span was gently laid in place by a single crane operated by Matt Roberts with volunteers from the Heritage and Conservation Commission on hand to guide it on to the footings built on each side of the river by Woody Fogg and Ron Mitchell.
The entire procedure took most of yesterday afternoon because the the section of bridge needed to be loaded on to a Public Works flatbed and guided by police to the Depot Street side of the river where the crane awaited. With the weather in the high 40s and not a cloud in the sky, people lined up along Main Street near the Mill Parking lot to see the operation.
Once the bridge arrived, it took about one-half hour to center it in its moorings. At one point, the ground in front of the crane needed shoring up because Roberts needed to walk it a little closer to the river than he first thought.
After the bridge was safely in place, most of those who worked on it let out a sigh of relief but were monosyllabic when asked about it.
"Done," said Mitchell who stood there with a small sledge hammer in one hand and a giant grin on his face.
"Nice job," said Land Use Technician Rick Ball.
Heritage Commission Chairman Wallace Rhodes took pictures with his laptop and said the bridge was going to make a wonderful enhancement to the area.
"We needed to span the river behind the mill to the gravel parking lot to give them access the trail. We want to put the rest of the bridge down behind Great Brook Village," said Woody Fogg, one of the coordinators of the project.
He said he knew the man who built the original bridge and was able to talk with him about how it was constructed.
"I knew we could cut the bridge apart at the splices and use the other two sections to span behind the village," Fogg said, noting the trestle was removed because of some sewer work. Along with putting the covered portion of the bridge on today, Fogg said there is still a great deal of carpentry that needs to be done before it's complete. Fogg also said that next spring they will build a gravel ramp that meets the standards of the American Disabilities Act.
The bridge was purchased by the Conservation Commission. Chairman Ken Knowlton said in 2013 that what once was a 154-foot-long covered pedestrian bridge, which originally spanned the Cocheco River, was bought by the commission for $1 from the city of Dover after efforts by Dover residents to keep in that community and use it as a centerpiece for a park fell short.
Built in 1996 at a cost of $162,845, the 8-foot-wide bridge was removed with a crane in 2010 and the city of Dover was looking to sell it in order to make way for a waterfront development.
Fogg said most of the funding for the project came from the balance of a grant that paid for the pavilion and an additional recreation grant procured by Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin. In addition, Fogg said crane owner Mark Roberts and his son Matt, a civil engineer with a degree from UNH, did much of the work at or below cost.
"We couldn't have done it without them," Fogg said.