Revised October 8, 2020
In the middle of Norwich’s trails network, across the road from the town’s most popular trailhead parking lot at Parcel 5, was a bridge spanning the Charles Brown Brook. Most people in town didn’t know that it existed, and those who did took it for granted. The bridge withstood over 100 years of floods, including Tropical Storm Irene and the flood of July 1st, 2017.
This bridge connected the Parcel 5, Brookmead, Blue Ribbon and Gile Mountain Trails on the east side of the brook with the Upper and Lower Bill Ballard, Brown Schoolhouse, Burton Woods, Cossingham and Appalachian trails on the west side.
Suddenly in July, 2018 the bridge collapsed, severing the Norwich trails system in half.
The collapsed bridge was removed and the banks graded in a manner that created a 100-foot gap from bank to bank.
The Norwich Trails volunteers developed a plan to replace the bridge to reconnect the town’s trails that included developing an article to authorize its funding and soliciting grant funding to offset the potential burden to taxpayers.
In their campaign for replacement of the bridge, they provided information on the project at: Brown Schoolhouse Road Bridge Replacement Q&A.
On March 3, 2020 the voters of Norwich approved Article 5 by a vote of 1049 Yes to 465 No.
Construction of the bridge started in August and was completed in October. It was opened on October 8, 2020 to provide:
- Access for mobility challenged users: The parking and turnaround area, accessible from Beaver Meadow Road, is for users with mobility challenges to access to the bridge. Those users will be able to enjoy natural surroundings not afforded by trails and parks elsewhere in Norwich.
- A new and healthy experience for you: If you haven’t sampled Norwich’s trails, this bridge will be a way to enjoy access to shorter segments of the Bill Ballard Trail.
- Access to Norwich’s “Grand Canyon”: The bridge provides access to a scenic cascade on the Upper Ballard Trail , so named by Bill Ballard, himself. Turn right on the Ballard Trail after crossing the bridge.
- Emergency access across the brook: The bridge is designed to restore the ATV access that was severed with the collapse of the old bridge. ATV access allows rescue of an injured hiker and supports fire suppression on the opposite side of the brook.