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Or mail your gift to: Townshend Historical Society,
POB 202, Townshend, VT 05353.
In late 2017, the THS Board took on a significant multi-year project to raise $410,000 for preservation of Townshend’s six 100+ year-old stone arch bridges. An initial grant in 2018 from The Preservation Trust of Vermont’s Sincerbeaux Fund provided six $500 matching grants to underwrite a Conditions Assessment of each of Townshend’s Stone Arch Bridges by Certified Stone Mason Michael Weitzner. Using the findings summarized in Weitzner’s Conditions Assessment Report (Spring 2018) and his estimates for costs of restoration, THS, with the support of the Town of Townshend which owns the bridges, has been working to raise funds for the project.
The Follett Bridge on State Forest Road: Restoration complete 2020
THS joined with the community in celebrating the successful completion of this first phase of its Stone Arch Bridge Preservation Project. Certified Stone Mason Michael Weitzner, using dry stone masonry techniques similar to those employed by the original builder James Otis Follett, finished the project by the end of June. The restoration was supported by a lead grant of $7,000 from The Windham Foundation, another smaller grant, designated gifts, funds from Townshend's stone arch bridge reserve and in-kind gifts of labor and materials from the Town Highway Department, Townshend Cemetery Commission, and community members.
West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge
Michael Weitzner’s Spring 2018 Conditions Assessment Report noted that, even though the West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge’s arch remained structurally intact and open to traffic, it was in urgent need of repair. Erosion over its lifetime of 100+ years caused by weather events, snow plowing, water runoff, and, most recently, increased use by heavy trucks and equipment threatens its stability and will ultimately lead to structural failure and closure. In response to the report’s urgent recommendation, the Town of Townshend engaged Weitzner to complete temporary emergency repairs before the end of 2018. They also placed signs for the 5 mph speed limit and 20,000 lb. weight limit near the bridge. The Townshend Historical Society sent out more than 50 letters to area firms whose trucks cross the bridge, informing them of its historic significance, its mortar-less dry stone construction, and the urgent its need for repair. The letter also requested that the trucks voluntarily slow down when crossing the bridge and obey the speed and weight limits.
At the March 2019 Town Meeting, voters were persuaded to approve an allocation of $ 88,000 toward repairs for the bridge. The Historical Society held a special gifts campaign the following summer, raising more than $30,000. The Town agreed to submit an application for a 2020 VTRANS Small Structures Grant which was subsequently denied. In 2020, Town Meeting voters approved another appropriation of $ 50,000.
UPDATE SPRING 2021:
West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge: Townshend voters approved $ 50,000 more on March Town Meeting Day.
This most recent appropriation brings the total raised for the project to $ 220,343 ($188,000 committed by Town voters and $ 32,343 in gifts raised by THS.) How much the original project estimate of $ 283,000 will increase after an update and review by Certified Stonemason Michael Weisner, remains unknown at this time. It is likely that project expenses going forward will be divided into three areas: 1) restoration of the bridge itself 2) grading, draining, and repaving the surface and 3) purchasing and installing parapets/guardrails. The filing of a VTRANS Small Structures Grant application by the Town for the West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge has been tabled for the foreseeable future in lieu of the Town’s using that grant to fund other emergency road projects.
UPDATE SPRING 2022:
Significant Funds Raised Over Winter for West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge Restoration
Townshend voters approved setting aside another $50,000 toward the restoration of the West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge at the town’s March 2022 Town Meeting. THS is grateful for the continued strong support of the people of Townshend. The funds are being added to Townshend’s Stone Arch Bridge Reserve.
In addition, the West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge restoration project, at the recommendation of Senator Bernie Sanders, was awarded a FY 2022 Congressionally-directed appropriation of $221,000. The project has been deemed a good use of federal taxpayer funds because it not only preserves an historic structure that is an important part of the history and heritage of Vermont, but will also save an important transportation route.
The receipt of these significant funds earmarked for the project brings the total raised to $492,000. With the overall cost estimated at $750,000 that leaves $ 258,000 to raise.
The Historical Society and Townshend Select Board are actively engaged in reviewing the budget with an eye toward lowering estimated costs. They are also beginning to plan for the start of the project once the remaining funds are secured. The restoration is expected to take about three months during which time the bridge will be closed to traffic.