Excitement builds for bridge opening

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES – Not unlike the flurry of the birds and the bees that arrives with spring, the Naples community is chirping and buzzing with the excitement of tomorrow’s ribbon cutting ceremony for its new bridge.

Everywhere in town, residents are speaking words of praise about the bridge that has been built. Locals have been brimming with excitement as they nail down their part in the plans for Friday’s ceremony. (It’s been a long haul to May 18, 2012, from the public-input meetings that started five years ago.)

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What: The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Bay of Naples Bridge.

Where: On the Causeway, at the site of the old and new bridges.

When: Friday, May18, 2012, beginning at 1 p.m.

Then: Appetizers and conversation to be served at the Village Green.

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The state’s resident engineer on this project isn’t as interested in the impending fanfare as he is focused on getting those big rigs, recreational vehicles, heavy duty American-made trucks and hundreds of gas-efficient cars rolling on down Route 302.

“I can’t wait to put traffic up on the bridge here,” Craig Hurd, the resident engineer with Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), said on Monday afternoon.

“Four more days – I can’t wait. They are putting in curbs today, the granite curbs up over the bridge,” he said.

Two weeks ago, the construction project passed a slight bump in the road – when rain held up paving the thoroughfare that crosses over the bridge. But, once paving started, the job was done in less than a work day, according to Hurd.

“They paved. We were done in six hours. We just needed a sunny day or a dry day. It took a while, but we finally got one,” he said.

“Everybody is pretty excited about this thing,” Hurd said of the countdown to the ribbon-cutting event.

At a recent workshop meeting of the Naples Board of Selectmen on May 4, both Chairman Christine Powers and Selectman Bob Caron Sr. described the upbeat feedback they were hearing from residents about the completed Causeway construction and the upcoming commemoration of the Bay of Naples Bridge.

“Every day, people come into the library and say positive things about the bridge,” said Powers, who works at the Naples Public Library. She added only one person in the community has continued to complain about the loss of a swing bridge.

“Almost 100 percent of the people in this town have nothing but positive things to say about the bridge and the Causeway – and I think that is really great,” Powers said.

Caron, who sat on the Causeway Renovation Committee, had high accolades for all of its members, especially Chairman Bob Neault.

Caron commented that he has lived in Naples since 1972, and has served on many boards and committees including the NPL Board of Trustees. However, he has never seen a group of people so in agreement – and so much on the same page when it was all said and done – as the group who was involved on the town’s Causeway and bridge committee.

In the beginning, it was necessary to limit the number of people on the committee to 16 because a bigger crowd often makes it more difficult to get things done, he said.

Committee members included Hurd who replaced initial MDOT employee Jim Wentworth, the MDOT engineer who designed the concrete arch bridge Jeff Folsom, Neault, Caron, Selectman Rick Paraschak, Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine, Naples Secretary Barbara McDonough, Jim Allen, Dan Allen, Kathy Sweet, Merry Watson, Maggie Krainin, Barbara Clark, Jim Bigelow, Dave Sherlock and local Rep. Rich Cebra.

“At the end of the day” the diverse group of people was able to find a common ground – and most votes were unanimous or close to it, and the end result included everybody’s input, Caron said.

Caron’s vintage vehicle – a 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible – will be among those driven across the old and new bridges during the parade.

Committee chairman Neault, a longtime Naples resident and business owner, has been involved in this bridge construction project since meetings began between MDOT and the town.

“In the 15 months since we had our groundbreaking, it has been amazing,” said Neault.

He cited not only the moving of the earth as a job for which the town was thankful to general contractor Wyman and Simpson, Inc. and subcontractor R.J.Grondin and Sons, Inc., but also that employees of both companies showed flexibility and integrity.

“The work they put in, the manner in which they conducted themselves is invaluable,” Neault said.

“It is hard to say how well they treated the community,” he said.

“In response, the community has embraced the project in a way it might not have been if the contractor had not been so dedicated to them,” he said.

Neault’s two daughters, Katie and Beth will be part of the dedication ceremony. The sisters will be singing this country’s national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

On Monday evening, 17-year-old Katie said she thought singing at this week’s ceremony “is going to be really cool actually.”

“Definitely, ‘cause it is a new bridge, and it’s exciting to have it all finished. It has taken so long,” she said.

“It’s really cool because I remember a while ago when my dad was showing us pictures. He got input from my family about all the pictures he showed at the meetings,” Katie said.

“To go from seeing ideas and stuff, and the initial project to a finished bridge – that’s pretty exciting,” she said.

In the days before the ribbon cutting, Neault said he was “feeling great” about it; and  apparently, he wasn’t the only one.

“From the comments I am hearing about this project now, I can tell the community has embraced it and has become excited about. This is spilling over to more people,” Neault said.

“In the past couple weeks, the bridge has pavement on it, and people can see how the road is going to flow. It is clicking with people, and they are saying, ‘This is a wonderful project,’ ” he said.

While many residents were around to witness the day-to-day progress of the construction, Sonny Berman and his wife Pat left Naples for Florida in December, and returned to their home on Long Lake in April.

“I was thrilled to see the progress that has been made while we were gone. I came back to a beautifully constructed bridge,” Berman said.

He added that he and his wife had walked over the bridge in the evening after eating dinner at Merced’s On Brandy Pond. The road – at the time – was still dirt, and the elevated view of the mountains and lake were fabulous, he said.

“I am feeling excited about it (the ribbon cutting ceremony.) They have asked us to use our old car and drive it behind the fire truck. It is an honor,” he said.

“For a small town to do something like this is unusual – I think,” Berman said.

“Obviously, everyone has watched the construction taking place for some time now. To see the finished product, and to be part of it, is impressive to the citizenry of Naples. Plus, the weather report looks good for Friday,” he said.

“From what I understand on the street, people I meet are enthused about it,” Berman said.

“The town is getting a new bridge,” he said.

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