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Photo: Zach Hirsch
Photo: Zach Hirsch

Iconic footbridge needs "complete rebuild"

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This week's warm weather might have been nice for those who enjoy shedding a few layers. But rapidly thawing ice creates all sorts of problems.

On Monday, a beloved footbridge in Wanakena got hit hard when an ice jam came roaring down the Oswegatchie River. There aren't many of these footbridges in New York, and residents of the small community are upset.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

Martha Foley: So, just how serious is the damage to the footbridge?

Zach Hirsch: It’s pretty serious, Martha. Town officials are now speaking in terms of a total rebuild, rather than a repair. The walkway looks really mangled. The A-frame gateway on the north side is splintered and falling over, which is a pretty serious structural issue. Right now the whole thing is roped off with caution tape and a no-trespassing sign.

And this isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. The year-round residents there crossed the bridge for quick trips to the grocery store. Now they have to walk an extra mile, and cross a regular bridge that was designed for car traffic.

MF: So, this footbridge is clearly a huge deal – to people who use it, even to people who just like the aesthetics of it. Has the community begun that rebuilding process?

ZH: Wanakena is still assessing the damage and considering what the next steps will be moving forward. It’s expected to be a long and slow process. But yesterday, there was a little bit of movement. The Wanakena Historical Association announced it’ll be leading the way in raising money for the restoration. As for which construction company will be doing the restoration, and with what money – that’s still up in the air.

Town supervisor Mark Hall is urging people to hang on tight.

"The bridge is destroyed, and we need a new bridge," Hall said. "That bridge is not going to be rebuilt today or tomorrow, or even this year. We’re going to have to get used to a year without the bridge."

Hall added that emotions are running high right now - which he says is a good thing. He thinks that’s a sign that people are really going to rally around getting this bridge back to the way it was.

MF: Okay. Did Monday’s ice jam cause any other concerns, other than the broken bridge?

ZH: Yeah, it did. The Wanakena wastewater treatment plant is right nearby the foot bridge. Some people were worried that the ice jam would flood the plant and compromise the water supply. But that didn’t happen. When I was there yesterday morning, Mark Hall told me the sewage plant was at normal operation.

There was major flooding in a lot of the houses in the area, though. And an entire road was totally submerged from the ice jam – but yesterday, the water was receding.

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