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To The Editor:
Dave Seller’s view (The Valley Reporter, February 14) “The bridge, the church and the barbershop” is a good history lesson, along with suggestions on how we might proceed. Another lesson is timely and should be added: the Town Meeting over 40 years ago, when the 1833 Waitsfield covered bridge was almost torn down.
The Waitsfield Select Board had waited many years for state funding to replace the old wood bridge with a new concrete span. Large vehicles could not use the covered bridge, which was regarded as a bottleneck and a handicap to development. When the funds finally became available, in about 1968, the town and the state quickly moved ahead with final plans.
Fletcher Joslin gave early warning signals and called me for support. Together with Milton Graton from New Hampshire, we made the case for preserving the covered bridge in use and letting the original timber trusses do the work, as opposed to hiding steel support beams underneath. We prepared for a vote at the next Town Meeting and The Valley Reporter helped us get the facts out. At Town Meeting, I took part in heated exchanges with select board members who were not pleased. When the vote tally came out, it was in favor of restoring the covered bridge and keeping it in operation.
Can you imagine Bridge Street today without the covered bridge?
The point is that our Waitsfield historic village and major landmarks, like the Methodist church, are of real value and are irreplaceable. Along with the Moretown and Warren villages, they give an added dimension to the Mad River Valley and its workable mix of farming and recreation. Historic preservation takes time and money, but, in a competitive economy and for the quality of our lives, it pays long-term dividends. Once again, the voters at Town Meeting will tell us which way to go.