NORTH HAVEN — After decades of decline, the island’s Beach Bridge finally became a thorn in the side anyone fishing out of Pulpit Harbor.
“The wall was so blown out it was damaging boats,” said Randall Brown, who fishes the harbor in his lobster boat Rock Me Baby. “Each year, concrete was forced out and it was destroying the sides of boats,” he said.
But Beach Bridge now is being reconstructed, preserving an important North Haven pier, roadway and recreational site.
Brown said fishermen use the bridge as a loading and unloading point—the only one available in the harbor, located on North Haven’s back shore.
“Six or seven people fish year-round off the back shore,” he said. “In the fall everyone fishes the back shore. Everyone uses this.”
In addition to serving as a landing site for fishermen and sailors, Beach Bridge, also referred to as Second Bridge, provides road access for four houses. It’s a popular spot for young swimmers in the summer, according to North Haven Selectman Merton Howard.
“Our grandkids love it to jump off of in the summer,” he said.
Selectmen heeded the fishermen’s complaints when they were echoed by Maine Department of Transportation inspections in 2007 and 2008.
“State inspection reports in 2007 and 2008 highlighted the deteriorating condition of the bridge and resulted in lowering weight limits first to 12 tons and then to four tons,” said Town Manager Joe Stone.
Howard said rusted holes were visible under the bridge at low tide.
DOT and North Haven town officials selected engineering firm T.Y. Lin of Falmouth. Engineers assessed the damage and determined that building an in-line replacement, rather than repairing the bridge, would be the best way to proceed. The cost was estimated at $2 million.
“With the readily provided cooperation of affected and abutting landowners, the selectmen were able to accept an in-line reconstruction,” Stone said. Landowners provided alternate access to the properties on the far side of the bridge.
Some islanders initially balked at the price tag.
“Many community members, summer and year-round, did not agree that the project should be on such a large scale, generating a seemingly large tax burden,” said First Selectman William Trevaskis. Fishermen also were anxious about losing access to the bridge during the fishing season, he said.
The state and town are splitting the cost, with the town financing its share through the USDA’s rural development loan program.
The bridge construction crew was selected via bid, with Prock Marine winning the job.
“We think it’s great that Prock got it because they’re very familiar with the islands,” Howard said.
Bridge reconstruction began in winter 2013.
“The conditions these guys worked in were brutal, it was blowing, snow, ice and these guys were down here working,” said Brown.
As of April, a new cement wall was evident in Pulpit Harbor.
“The wall is angled so fishermen can unload traps,” said T.Y. Lin engineer Phil Pinkham.
Stone said the new bridge was designed to accommodate the traditional use of the bridge as a wharf and that fishermen have been supportive.
“The bridge is not just for fishermen in Pulpit Harbor,” said Brown. “This is for all fishermen.”