Hammond to speak at Covered Bridge meeting

Friday April 26, 2013

ROCKINGHAM -- The woman who video-recorded Tropical Storm Irene's destruction of the Bartonsville Bridge will be the speaker of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society's annual spring meeting on Saturday.

Susan Hammond, now a member of the Rockingham Selectboard, told the Reformer she will give attendees a history of the village of Bartonsville and a presentation of the replacement bridge's construction. The meeting will be held at the Bartonsville Grange on Upper Bartonsville Road and is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

"I grew up here. It was my local bridge," she said. "I was, of course, very concerned about it."

Vermonters, who are more accustomed to snowstorms than hurricane winds, suffered greatly due to Irene, which took an unusual path up the East Coast in August 2011 and made a bee-line for the Green Mountain State. The heavy precipitation flooded countless waterways nature did not design for such weather. The Bartonsville Covered Bridge, destroyed by the floodwaters of the Williams River, was just one of its casualties.

Hammond lives up the road from the site and said she had been visiting throughout the day of the storm to see how the bridge was faring. She recorded the bridge being washed off its abutments and the video -- which contains a few expletives -- can still be seen on YouTube at http://youtu.be/WyO18one8fU. It was carried by media outlets around the world.

Hammond, who is not a member of the VCBS, plans to speak for about 30 to 40 minutes Saturday and explain the bridge's history.

The 151-foot-long bridge was built in 1870 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Hammond told the Reformer it was built after the Great Flood of 1869. The catastrophe destroyed homes and straightened out the river, which used to curve around the paper mills and railroad station the area.

Hammond will also speak about the construction of the replacement bridge.

The Rockingham Selectboard awarded the construction bid to Cold River Bridges of Walpole, N.H., at a special meeting in June 2012. According to a document from former Municipal Manager Timothy Cullenen, Cold River Bridges' proposed bid of $1,210,210 was the lowest the town received.

A ceremony to celebrate the opening of the brand-new bridge was held in January. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., was in attendance. The ceremony started with a few comments from speakers, followed by a ribbon cutting and a group walk across the new bridge.

VCBS Vice President Joseph Nelson, who lives in Underhill, told the Reformer that Hammond was chosen as speaker because she has been at the forefront of a local citizens' advocacy group to get a new bridge built. He also said Hammond has worked closely VCBS member Raymond Hitchcock, who is in charge of monitoring the covered bridges in the Rockingham area.

Established in 2000, the VCBS has two meetings -- which are free and open to the public -- every year at various sites in Vermont. Its website is www.vermontbridges.com and a quarterly newsletter, called The Bridger, provides members with up-to-date news about bridges and meetings.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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