The newly reconstructed Pussy's Pond Bridge "fulfills a desire of the students of Springs School," project manager Ray Hartjen said this week. In a statement heralding the completion of the bridge and announcing a dedication ceremony planned for this Sunday, Hartjen invited the public to gather at noon on the School Street side of the footbridge, which spans the headwaters of Accabonac Harbor.
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"I wish all projects were like this," Zach Cohen of the town's Nature Preserve Committee enthused. "It's been really wonderful, the way the community came together." The bridge was funded entirely from donations from the community, Hartjen noted.
Cohen offered some history. The bridge was originally built at the Pussy's Pond Nature Preserve by volunteers from Waterfowl USA in the 90s. It fell into disrepair and was taken down about five years ago.
In 2009, Cohen said, the Nature Preserve Committee, including members of Waterfowl USA, moved to rebuild the bridge. Because of financial difficulties, however, the town was unable to underwrite the cost of construction.
Concurrently Hartjen was at the forefront of the effort. During the annual Springs Fishermen's Fair in 2011 Hartjen hosted a walk to the pond and a presentation about the bridge plans.
Hartjen helped design and build the Tanbark Creek Bridge near the headwaters of Three Mile Harbor. During the 2011 fair he said his commitment to rebuilding the Pussy's Pond Bridge was in answer to a call "from young voices who long to capture the lure and charm of a bridge that had so much meaning to so many."
Kids from Springs School, just across the road from the pond, he said, "pleaded with the town board to rebuild their access to nature, their place to dream, and to experience peace and quiet."
In 2009, Hartjen worked with fifth graders at Springs School to design a new Pussy's Pond Bridge. Kids crafted models, which were displayed in town hall for a time. The movement languished until the fall of 2010, when Hartjen picked up the standard again.
"As I moved forward I found others who were eager to take action," he wrote in an essay published in the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society newsletter.
The bridge will end up costing about $18,500, Cohen said. "It was raised from literally hundreds of donations."
A variety of experts volunteered to provide construction assistance. Mark Mendelman of Seacoast Enterprises Associates drew up the plans for the bridge.
Cohen noted, "Every piece of wood was harvested from either a town nature preserve or private land." Each piling is a solid trunk of black locust. Seth Allan of Chesterfield Builders installed all the pilings for free. Tom Matthews of Thomas Matthews Woodworking in Southampton milled the lumber, and Matthew Bobek, whose company is M Bobek Construction of East Hampton, assembled the pieces.
Michael Marder was "a huge help," Cohen said. He help cut trees identified by the town's senior environmental analyst Andy Gaites and hauled them to the mill and back.
The school was involved early on, through its design contest and the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee was "another strongly supporting organization," as were the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society and the Accabonac Protection Committee, Cohen said. The Town Trustees have supported the project from day one, he pointed out. All of the material of the bridge is owned by the Trails Preservation Society. "The involvement of the Trails Preservation Society not only provided needed support, but also allowed us to make this project a tax-deductible venture," Cohen said.
"Ray Hartjen is their Special Projects Coordinator and he was the real construction manager. He provided the skills and connections that led to using locally harvested black locust for all of the bridge."
"Our agreement with the Town and the Trustees is that once the bridge passes inspection we will donate it to the Town," Cohen said. Ground was broken last fall. "We have just a few more side rails and curbs to install this week and then we are through," Cohen said Monday.
Sunday's celebration will be held on the bridge at noon, then move to Ashawagh Hall for food and beverages.