Irene: One Year Later - Bringing back covered bridges - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Irene: One Year Later - Bringing back covered bridges

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No one forget can forget the image -- the most viral of many pictures taken in Vermont almost a year ago -- the Bartonsville Bridge in Rockingham being swept down the Williams River.

Susan Hammond is the photographer who took the captured the images.  Her video went worldwide on the web and the reaction was generally positive, lots of people even sent in money.

"Quite a few people were supportive, but there were a lot of negative comments which I was surprised at, Hammond said. "if you watch the video you saw how upset I was and used some choice words but they thought it was... many people thought it was ridiculous someone could cry over the loss of a bridge."

For now there's been a temporary structure of concrete and steel, but very soon a New Hampshire company will start assembling a covered bridge on the far side of the Williams River and it will be in place sometime next year.

In nearby Bellows Falls, the Bartonsville Bridge is a constant reminder for Rockingham Town Manager Tim Cullenen. "We had a glitch in the process," Cullenen said.

For a couple of weeks it appeared the town's insurance company might not pay off on a million dollar insurance policy, but now that has been resolved. "They've also paid money for repairs to our other bridges -- the Hall bridge, the Worrall bridge, and they are covering those repairs," Cullenen said. "On top of that we are still faced with having to pay out 450-thousand dollars for debris removal out of the river which we wont see a dime of, from FEMA either."

The Worral bridge has just been finished at a cost of just over 90-thousand dollars.  It was not as seriously damaged as Bartonsville upstream, and it gets very little traffic.  

And soon the Taftsville bridge, east of Woodstock, will go out to bid as well. The bridge was slated for repair before Irene. That plan had to be changed after the storm.    

"The covered bridges are particularly susceptible to events like Irene because in the 1800's they were being built by hand and they didn't make them any longer than they had to and the abutments -- in many cases such as this one -- they protrude into the stream and often are made of dry laid stone," said Scott Newman, the Vt. State Historic Preservation Officer. "The bids are due next week and I think it is estimated to be over a million dollars by our folks."  

Reporter Marselis Parsons:  Are they really worth all that money. Is it that important to us?"

Scott Newman: These are cherished icons in the state. We have 100 left, and they are terrifically important for tourism and development in the host towns and they tell a larger story about the engineering of Vermont and the ingenuity of folks here trying to establish these crossings.

Tuesday they will celebrate in Rockingham as work will soon begin on restoring that crossing to its former glory. 

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