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The town of Waitsfield received and is likely to accept an offer to purchase the site of the former Birke Photography Studio on Bridge Street.
The studio sat between the Mad River and the blue building that houses Peasant Restaurant. It was destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene and was dismantled, leaving only the slab. On the slab, over the summer, lawn chairs appeared and people began to sit by the river.
The owners, after receiving permits to rebuild, began working with the town on the various other rebuilding issues at the site – riprapping the bank, storm drains and a retaining wall – and realized that perhaps building nothing made more sense than rebuilding.
Their offer and their foresight and their ability to think about what might be best for the river and the town in the long run is generous and admirable.
And the town is right to move forward with the purchase. While it is sad to see a historic building destroyed and painful to lose that little part of our history, it is the right decision to leave that space open.
If the space remains open, the covered bridge abutment on that end may be moved back to allow more water to flow through the bridge in the next flood. That, in turn, may spare the bridge and Bridge Street from future flooding.
The select board has the authority to use the funds that are set aside in the town’s recreation/conservation fund to make such a purchase and would be wise to do so posthaste.
To argue that the town can’t afford to lose the $200 in property taxes from the parcel is to ignore the fact that a pop-up public park at the site will likely increase the property values of surrounding parcels enough to make up for it.
Flooding is the new normal and increasingly, when possible, the smart thing to do is not rebuild in the floodplain.
Let’s make permanent this little park where people can sit and watch the river and watch kids swimming.
Happy holidays and here’s to Bridge Street’s first park.