RLT Opens New Volunteers Pedestrian Bridge

In December 2021, Roxbury Land Trust announced the installation of a new Volunteers’ Bridge at the Orzech Family Preserve off Botsford Hill Road, Roxbury. The installation is part of an ongoing effort to improve connectivity between preserves. The new steel bridge spans the scenic Shepaug River and connects RLT’s River Road Preserve to its west Shepaug preserves (Orzech, Golden Harvest, and Erbacher). The old bridge remains closed and will be dismantled when conditions allow. 

 “To have residents willing to donate for the benefit of all shows great support for the Land Trust’s mission as well as just how deep the sense of community is here in Roxbury,” said Trust President Julie Steers. “As a small non-profit organization with a staff of three, the Roxbury Land Trust is fortunate to count on our neighbors, friends and members to continue to support capital projects that make the preserves better for everyone.”

 In 2019, RLT determined that the existing Volunteers’ Bridge, built 30 years ago, needed replacement. RLT researched various options including building another wooden bridge. At that time, no options worked due to cost and time constraints. Former Board President and current Director Brian Duda discovered an industrial pipe bridge for sale nearby at a much lower cost. After review, the newly formed Bridge Committee judged the bridge structure to have the proper span as well as the ability to be retrofitted to create an attractive and utilitarian pedestrian bridge.

 The original plan was to have a town-wide fundraising campaign in conjunction with the Trust’s 50th anniversary celebration scheduled for 2020.  Due to Covid-19, the plan morphed into a low-key fundraising effort in 2021. Within approximately one month, RLT secured 100% participation from members of the RLT Board of Directors and the staff and asked the community to assist in raising the remaining funds. The community responded with immediate support. 

 With committed community members and directors donating their time, knowledge, and woodworking skills, the Trust began retrofitting the pipe bridge into a pedestrian walkway. In addition to the adaptive reuse component, a key aspect of the project incorporated planking made by volunteers using reclaimed rough-sawn oak. The oak from this project was gathered from trees originally felled on RLT preserves by Storm Isaias in 2020.

Executive Director Ann Astarita said, “The Trust values the opportunity to ‘walk the talk’ and reduce, reuse and recycle materials and resources for this community project. We hope that people will enjoy the new, repurposed bridge and explore the expanded trails at the River Road Preserve.” With snowshoeing and cross-country skiing permitted on the Orzech Preserve’s Kress Family Trail, the bridge makes for a fun winter activity, she added.

 A project of this size could not be completed without involvement from the volunteer Bridge Committee chaired by engineer Brian Neff and RLT Land and Property Manager James Curren. Members of the committee included: Marc Olivieri, Michael Boyd, Richard Wilhelm, Andy Engel, Patrick Roy, Brian Duda, Ed Racz, John Smoliga. Several area businesses and other members of the community also helped with the project providing services from bridge renderings, site preparation, crane work, installation and transport, including Russell Einbinder, Kyle Turoczi of Earth Tones, FSM Services, O&G Construction, Global Machines, T. Michael Alex, and Connor Dillon.

Please visit the RLT website www.roxburylandtrust.org to view maps of these preserves of any of the others managed by the Land Trust. With 33 preserves and 30 miles of hiking trails, RLT’s mission is to preserve and conserve open space in perpetuity. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 3,800 acres of farmland, woodlands, watercourses, wetlands and open space in Roxbury and neighboring communities since it was established in 1970. The non-profit organization maintains three active farms, as well as offers a wide range of educational programs.

To receive more information about RLT or the bridge project, please contact the office at 860.350.4148, visit the website, or email barbara@roxburylandtrust.org