Toby Talbot / AP Photo
Damage is visible on a private 140-year-old covered bridge in Lyndonville. The owners say they don’t have the money for repairs.
MONTPELIER — A national group that preserves covered bridges says a quick fix is needed to prevent a bridge in Lyndonville from collapsing into the Passumpsic River, and it’s hoping for a fast turnaround on the state and federal permits it needs to begin the work.
David Wright, president of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, said Tuesday a team from his group had made an inspection tour of the Sanborn Covered Bridge on Sunday and agreed that it needed to be shored up soon to keep it from falling into the river.
“The bridge is in bad shape,” Wright said. “Moreover, it’s an emergency situation. We’ve got to get at shoring it up so it doesn’t end up in the river.”
The 120-foot span, built nearly a century and a half ago, is considered one of the leading examples of a design developed by New Hampshire bridge builder Peter Paddleford. It no longer connected roads, but was popular with pedestrians in warmer months and formed part of an important snowmobile trail in the winter.
Today, it has been closed, with barriers and warning signs at both ends. One of the two main beams running underneath it has snapped and the bridge has sagged enough that a parallel beam supporting its roof also has broken.
Arthur and Jeanne Elliott, lifelong Lyndonville residents who own the bridge and property surrounding it, say they don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to fix the bridge. Officials with several state agencies have said they cannot step in because the bridge is private property.
Wright’s group and the Preservation Trust of Vermont — another private, nonprofit group — have joined to say they would like to lead the effort to save the bridge, and agree that the first step is a temporary fix to prevent its collapse.
Among those on Sunday’s tour was Tim Andrews, owner of Guilford, N.H.-based Barns and Bridges of New England, who agreed with Wright that the bridge’s condition presents an emergency.
“This thing may not last two more weeks. I’m quite sincere about that,” Andrews said. He said he had rescued such bridges in the past for the national society, and that the need for permits for working in the stream from state environmental agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of engineers can slow the work.
Andrews said he does his work all by hand, and that the environmental impact pales in comparison to a bridge falling into a stream. “Aren’t you aware that the environmental impact is far bigger (if a bridge falls) than me putting a few big stones in the river?” he asked.
Calls Tuesday to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources drew no immediate response.
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