A footbridge in Riverhead’s Cranberry Bog Preserve that has been closed for the last six years is open for public use after its ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.
The bridge had been damaged by storms and natural wear and tear. The bridge, which had been standing for 30 years, was the focal point in a 1.1 mile-long trail off Lake Avenue on Suffolk County-owned land.
A petition on Change.org, started by Quality Parks, a non-profit organization based in Port Jefferson, called for the immediate repair of the bridge. It was originally estimated to cost $30,000 to $40,000 to rebuild, but the county managed to rebuild it for just $1,000 by using recycled and repurposed materials.
“I’m proud to report this is a win-win situation because not only do we have the access once again to the beautiful preserve, but we did it in a very cost-effective way,” Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said at the ceremony. “Almost all the materials have been used elsewhere and were reused and recycled in order to make this bridge.”
The preserve is 165 acres of woodlands known for the white cedars that line the water, which serves as a recharge for the nearby Peconic River.
The park is what remains of an abandoned cranberry-growing operation and about three-quarters of the way around the trail is what’s left of an old pump house that was in use when the Woodhull family was still farming cranberries, according to the county website.
“Every opportunity we have to open up parks so people can enjoy hiking and have a healthier lifestyle is very important to us,” County Executive Steve Bellone said.
Legislator Kara Hahn, Legislator Al Krupski, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Phil Berdolt were also in attendance.
Mindy Block, founder of Quality Parks, was instrumental in getting the bridge rebuilt.
“I encourage people to be civically engaged for the common good,” Ms. Block said.
Quality Parks was founded in 2000 and supports environmental projects on Long Island.
“It was folks like Mindy who would not give up on the quest to ensure that the bridge was repaired so that hikers could make this beautiful loop and enjoy the preserve and the wildlife that it supports,” Ms. Fleming said.
Top photo caption: Officials and community members celebrated the opening of the Cranberry Bog Preserve footbridge in Riverhead Thursday. (Credit: Rachel Siford)