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Sandy Hook Pedestrian Bridge Removed



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A steel pedestrian bridge installed 40 years ago to carry foot traffic over the Pootatuck River in Sandy Hook Center was removed last Monday morning. Access to the bridge had been blocked for 14 months, after corrosion led to fencing being installed at each end to prevent people from using it.

Initial plans on March 25 were to have the bridge, which connected the parking lot of 4 Washington Avenue to 100 Church Hill Road, pulled up and evaluated. The Legislative Council in June 2023 had approved a $15,000 transfer for the removal and inspection of the bridge. Officials then had hoped it could be repaired, but once the bridge was off its settings on Monday, those plans changed.

Instead, within hours the small bridge that spanned the Pootatuck for four decades was cut into sections and most was readied for scrap.

First Selectman Jeff Capeci says the bridge will not be replaced.

"After evaluation, Public Works determined the steel is so rotted that new steel could not be welded onto it," he said. "If the Town was to replace the bridge, at this time it would need to be built to ADA compliance, significantly increasing the cost of a bridge. Funds were appropriated for removal, evaluation and repair, but not for replacement."

Parks & Recreation Assistant Director of Parks Carl Samuelson, who oversaw the work on Monday, was surprised at the bridge’s condition.

“I did not expect it to be that bad,” he said. As he watched, Parks & Rec employees worked with a team from A-Quick Pick Crane Service Inc on the bridge’s dismantling. When a crane lowered sections of the bridge onto the ground between the buildings at 100 Church Hill Road, pieces of rust fell from the frame to the ground. When the frame was loaded onto the back of a Parks & Rec trailer, a clear outline of rust was left on the ground where the bridge section had just been sitting.

Michael Burton, the president of Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP), was also watching part of the operation.

“I’m glad I saw this myself,” he said. “I didn’t know it was that bad either.”

Burton is among those who want to see the bridge replaced.

“I’ve had people contact me saying they had their engagement and wedding pictures taken on that bridge. It means a lot to them,” he said.

“It’s a lot more than just connecting Point A to Point B,” he added. “We have more sidewalks now than when the bridge was installed, but that bridge is more than that.”

A few hours later SHOP’s president elaborated. In a statement to The Newtown Bee, Burton said throughout Sandy Hook’s history, “the Village has been tied to the Pootatuck River. The bridge continues that connection and has been the center of countless iconic photos showcasing the beauty of the river, and has been used for family photographs, wedding pictures, and has created countless other memories for the community.

“While the Village has been fortunate to have a streetscape installed in different segments over the past 20 years, the beauty, convenience, and walkability that the bridge has given Sandy Hook over its 40-year life cannot be overstated. With the growth of residential density within walking distance of Sandy Hook Center, the importance of this bridge has been growing. Sandy Hook has a wide variety of popular businesses, but parking is very tight. The bridge has helped to encourage walking to stores and restaurants, alleviating overcrowding of the parking lots and providing an economic boost to the area merchants,” the statement continued.

Burton also mentioned Monday morning that the bridge inspired nearby design efforts. When the property at 6 Washington Avenue underwent a major overhaul a decade ago, transforming the former private home into an award-winning wine bar and intimate bistro, steel railing was installed along the eastern edge of the property between the parking lot and the river.

“They specifically designed those railings and the fence to look like the bridge,” he pointed out.


The 40-foot-long pedestrian bridge was made possible, according to Burton, through fundraising by SHOP “and was to be maintained by the Town of Newtown. It was installed in the mid 1980s to increase parking for the Sandy Hook Post Office,” which at the time was operating at 4 Washington Avenue. Prior to the installation of sidewalks in Sandy Hook Center, the area to navigate along Washington Avenue and Church Hill Road, around the river, was unsafe for pedestrians to walk.

SHOP handled the labor and installation of the bridge, Burton said March 26.

The Legislative Council during a June 2023 meeting said the bridge was installed through a joint effort from the Town and Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP).

“The agreement was the Town would maintain it in perpetuity,” he said.

The removal on Monday did not come as a full surprise.

“There was an agreement to take the bridge out, and take it to Parks & Rec and have a structural engineer check it, try to fix it, and return it,” Burton said. “We knew this has been coming for almost a year. We just didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it turned out to be.”

The bridge was closed to public use in early 2023 after repair work led to the discovery of unsafe conditions. When several floorboards were pulled up for replacement, the underlying metal infrastructure was found to be corroding.

A Done Deal?

Replacing the bridge would be expensive. The town last year and Capeci reiterated this week that a new bridge at that location would need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last year, then-First Selectman Rosenthal did not feel the cost warranted installation of a new bridge if the original one was found to be irreparable or too expensive to repair. Rosenthal said he would return with an appropriation for additional funds if the bridge could be repaired for “a reasonable amount of money,” though he cautioned it was “debatable what a reasonable number is. It would have to be a small number for me to support it.”

If the bridge was found to not be reparable, Rosenthal said the $15,000 appropriation would be used to install permanent fencing at the abutments.

He had support from at least two Councilmen. Ryan Knapp said the area was in a “different situation” than it was in the 90s when the bridge was installed, and William DeRosa said that since the bridge was connecting private property to another private property, he was for removing the bridge regardless of repair cost.

Capeci on Wednesday said Public Works will use some of the steel salvaged from Monday's work "to replace the fencing on both sides of the river for safety reasons and there are no current plans for a replacement."

Burton was hoping for a different response this year.

“It’s only been 24 hours, but it’s going to be something we address as a group,” he said of SHOP’s members on Tuesday morning. “We’re going to meet to discuss the next steps to replace the bridge.”

SHOP is currently working to complete Heritage Park on Glen Road, “and we’re committed to finishing that with any money we can fundraise.

“If any grants or funds are available toward a bridge, we certainly will apply for them,” he said.


Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

A section of the 40-foot-long pedestrian bridge that spanned the Pootatuck River in Sandy Hook Center is moved around the parking lot of 100 Church Hill Road last Monday morning. While many had hoped the bridge could be repaired and reopened, workers on March 25 discovered the steel had rusted beyond return. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Parks & Recreation employee David White cuts the rail off a section of the pedestrian bridge on March 25. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Billy Taylor and Sarah Hemingway were among countless couples to take advantage of the picturesque setting the bridge offered. —photo courtesy Michael Burton
A section of the pedestrian bridge is taken away on a Parks & Recreation trailer. —Bee Photo, Hicks
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1 comment
  1. tomj says:

    Could the ARP funds be used to replace the bridge, or did we spend all that money on recovery/pandemic related costs, such as, Pickleball, a new Playscape, air conditioning, a dump truck, a patio, a bucket loader, vans for the senior center, etc etc etc … This bridge could increase visitors to the little village of sandy hook and could be the only actual legitimate ARP fund usage in this town.

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