Press-Republican

June 8, 2011

Footbridge measures passage of time

ALVIN REINER
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown footbridge has been demolished to make way for a new one.

New beams are already in place, but it will be a few weeks before the popular bridge is in use again.

Each day, 100 or more pedestrians crossed the bridge, which spanned a western branch of the Boquet River.

Mornings and afternoons, youngsters traversed it, heading to and from school. Lunchtime, many Essex County and hospital employees utilized their lunch breaks to get some exercise by making one of several loops around the town via the bridge.

'SMOOCHING PLACE'

Gay Olcott and her sister, Beth Marvin, walked across the bridge almost daily and decided to have their last stroll across the venerable span shortly before an Essex County crew came to demolish it.

Olcott remembers walking across the bridge as a fourth-grader in 1963.

"Back then, there were no buses for the town kids, and so we walked to school," she said.

She figures she averages about 300 crossings a year — more than 10,000 trips in almost five decades.

"Under the bridge was a smooching place, and Ricky (her husband) asked me to go steady with him at the bridge in 1967," Mrs. Olcott said. "I was 13, and he was 15."

Since Mr. Olcott leaves for work before 5 a.m., he and his wife visited the bridge the night before the demolition to have one last kiss there.

BRIDGE TRADITIONS

There was once a town swimming area near the bridge, and Mr. Olcott was a lifeguard when he was 16 and 17.

A child-care provider, Mrs. Olcott has been taking her preschoolers across the span as they take their walk through the town.

As a ritual of early spring, she would let the youngsters wade in the cold water by the bridge; Zach Denton, who is now a high-school senior, claims the title for withstanding the cold water the longest.

Another springtime activity for the preschoolers at that location is to watch the annual fish stocking.

"I just love walking over the bridge almost every day and listening to the river," Marvin said. "As I cross the bridge, I am always looking over the side at the river flowing below me."

She and Mrs. Olcott usually take their canine friends, Abby and Jack, on their excursions.

LANDSCAPING, TOO

The impending footbridge repair was outlined by Jessica Buehler of Essex County Public Health during a recent Elizabethtown Town Council meeting.

The town is paying $46,000 toward the project initially but will be reimbursed. About $90,000 will be forthcoming from grants through the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, administered through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation with the intention to promote healthier lifestyles.

According to Elizabethtown Supervisor Noel Merrihew, there is money in the general fund to cover the outlay of funds.

Though the current cement piers are being utilized, the steps and bridge itself will be replaced. Wood planking will be supplanted by heavy-duty plastic.

Landscaping will be done in the park area, as well as stream-bank reinforcement.

Email Alvin Reiner at:

rondackrambler@yahoo.com