Hike funding

Funding on the way for Beloved Bridge

KILLINGWORTH

Chatfield Hollow State Park is one of the coast’s best-kept and most-adored natural secrets. The park offers a wide range of hiking, fishing, and recreation opportunities nestled in some of the region’s most diverse and beautiful forests.

One of the most beloved aspects of the park is the covered bridge that crosses a stream leading to miles of hiking trails. Known as the Kissing Bridge because it is said to provide a discreet setting for a quick kiss between lovers, the structure is also a setting for wedding photos, baby photos and is often listed as one of the most beautiful state covered bridges.

However, the bridge has seen better days and is now in a state of deterioration.

Local activists Cheryl Buckley and Rhonda Levine joined forces almost five years ago to rally support to try to get authorities to remedy the situation and repair or replace the aging structure. Their Facebook group, Friends of Chatfield Hollow, has over 2,100 members advocating for a solution to the bridge repair.

“There are so many people who love this bridge. It’s such a wonderful place,” Buckley said. “It’s a landmark. It is truly a symbol of Connecticut. People have been coming here for generations to take wedding photos, baby photos, for family reunions. It’s such a beautiful place, and we all want to come together to save it. Our ideal outcome is to replace or repair the bridge. Obviously it’s necessary, and I’m not sure what’s more doable, but it’s also part of a trail, so there’s a real purpose to it.

Buckley said state and local authorities have responded to inquiries about the bridge and she is hopeful a repair or redesign of the bridge is on the horizon.

“We’ve been chasing politicians for two and a half years, saying, ‘What are you going to do? So we just want to bring attention to the cause,” Buckley said. “We try anything and welcome feedback from anyone else.”

Levine added, “Anyone who has come to the park and seen the bridge understands how beautiful and important it is. We really want people to know this and help find a solution. We therefore hope that any attention will contribute to the effort to save him.

With over 412 acres, Chatfield Hollow State Park is a popular destination for biking, hiking, picnicking, swimming, and fishing.

Killingworth’s first breeder, Nancy Gorski, said that although the park is a state-controlled plot, Chatfield Hollow is an important part of the Killingworth community and any improvements are welcome.

“The Kissing Bridge is a landmark for Chatfield Hollow, and it would be terrible to lose it,” Gorski said. “Although this is a state park, many Killingworth residents enjoy this park year-round.”

Last summer, the state allocated $51.5 million, including $21.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, to address “the backlog of needed infrastructure improvements in the state park system,” according to the state’s website.

Paul Copleman, media relations manager for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said the agency has allocated funds for a study he hopes will begin before the end of the year.

“Yes, we have committed $100,000 as part of our master project planning process to hire a consultant for design and permitting duties related to the bridge assessment,” Copleman said. “DEEP is committed to hiring a consultant by the end of this calendar year.”

The positioning of the bridge over a small watercourse presents several environmental issues, including the impact of any construction on the sensitive ecological setting of the waterway. DEEP officials said it was simply not a tear down and rebuild, as the waterway has conditions that make any repair or replacement a delicate and slow process.

Environmental permit requirements are at the forefront of the challenges from a water resource impact perspective. If the new bridge is correctly dimensioned from a hydrological/hydraulic point of view, it automatically becomes more structurally sustainable. The water resource will not scour and weaken the foundation of the structure so much. The superstructure also needs to be upgraded to support a long life cycle.

“Basically, the bridge must safely support the volume and velocity of the water that continuously passes beneath it,” Copleman explained. “As we face climate change, this means stronger storms and potentially more severe flooding and higher water levels. It is important to determine the hydraulic forces that the bridge must withstand over time. Those These have likely changed since the bridge was built, so we will need to consider whether the current footprint and foundations of the bridge are adequate as we plan for the bridge’s long-term future. aesthetic.

State Senator Christine Cohen, who chairs the environment committee that oversees DEEP and the state’s forest and parks system, said repair or replacement is something that’s high on the agenda. agenda of legislators.

“The group came to us with these concerns about the deterioration of this beloved bridge for us many years ago. Last year I went there with Deputy Commissioner Trumbull for a hike so I could show him exactly what was going on and what we were seeing, and I think that was very important in moving the project on schedule and get funding,” says Cohen. “We don’t think it’s a security issue yet, but it will be very soon. But it is a beloved landmark and something special and iconic for the park itself. So we wanted to make sure it was a priority project. I’m excited because we have a funding commitment, we’ve committed to making this a priority for DEEP, and we should be moving forward soon.

Cohen said she was confident the project would move quickly, and a decision on whether the plan would be a full rebuild or a repair would be made in the coming months.

The beloved covered bridge at Chatfield Hollow could soon receive much-needed repairs. Photo by Ben Rayner/The Source

The beloved covered bridge at Chatfield Hollow could soon receive much-needed repairs. Photo by Ben Rayner/The Source