Westborough Town Meeting to consider conservation area bridge replacement

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Westborough Town Meeting to consider conservation area bridge replacement
Snow covers an existing bridge that needs to be replaced within the Bowman Conservation Area in Westborough. (Photo/Ben Domaingue)

WESTBOROUGH – An “unsafe” bridge running over a tributary to Sandra Pond in Westborough may soon be replaced.

One of the articles on a recent draft warrant for this year’s upcoming Annual Town Meeting in March would transfer $14,000 in free cash to replace the bridge, which is located in the Bowman Conservation Area

“It just has met its life expectancy,” Conservation Director Sheri Widdiss said during a Feb. 8 Select Board meeting. “…It’s really unsafe at this point.”

Widdiss said the bridge is “hard to walk across.” It is also not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. 

Bridge is part of trail network

The Bowman Conservation Area spans 157 acres. It was purchased by Westborough in the 1960s and currently features a large section of the Charm Bracelet Trail system, which also snakes through various other properties in Westborough. 

There are three bridges located on the property, including this one. 

Widdiss estimated that the bridge is over 40-years-old and made out of telephone poles. 

The bridge has been repaired several times.

Now, Widdiss is proposing to replace it altogether using a kit that would come with the necessary pieces of wood. A contractor would set up the footing of the bridge before it would then be assembled by volunteers. 

The new bridge will be five feet wide and 24 feet long with railings on both sides. It would be ADA-compliant.  

There will be a stone dust path connecting one end of the bridge to a paved area that leads to a nearby parking lot where there is an ADA parking spot, Widdiss said.

Trail sections on the other side of the bridge are not ADA compliant, Widdess said.  

“But, we have to do it in sections,” she continued.

Moving forward, as the paths are changed or altered, Widdiss said staff will work to make them meet any disability standards. 

Town eyes grant

As this project is estimated to cost $14,000, Widdiss has also applied for a MassTrails grant, which is run by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

If Westborough receives the grant, the town would only have to contribute $3,100 for the project. 

“I’m really, really hopeful that we get the grant,” Widdiss said. 

Widdiss said grant winners will be announced in July. 

Whether or not she waits until the grants are announced to place the order for the bridge kit may depend on any debate at Town Meeting.  

Town Meeting is scheduled for March 19.

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