A crew from the Derby Department of Public Works and A Quick Pick Crane and Rigging Service installed a pedestrian bridge across the spillway at Witek Park on Academy Hill Thursday.
Public Works Director Anthony DeFala said the 22-foot bridge will let hikers make an uninterrupted loop around the reservoir at Witek Park.
Previously walkers had to traverse a steep hill below the dam and walk dangerously close to Academy Hill Road, which is very busy.
DeFala also said kids were constantly jumping down into the spillway and then walking across to the other side. New fencing is being installed by the DPW to stop that and direct kids to use the bridge across the spillway.
“I’m a lifelong resident and I’ve wanted to do this for years. It was a dangerous situation,” DeFala said.
The new bridge is 9 feet wide and weighs about 8,000 pounds. It was built by DeFala’s employees at the Department of Public Works. Any materials and labor were covered within the public works budget, DeFala said.
The director estimated he’s spent about $8,000 on the bridge project. Outsourcing the job would have probably cost about $50,000, DeFala said.
D’Amico Associates in Oxford did the engineering work, but didn’t charge the city, DeFala said.
Meanwhile, DiGiovanni & Sons Construction of Derby is making repairs to the lower part of the spillway, as mandated by state dam inspectors, DeFala said. That is a separate project.
Quick Pick’s Tony Polzella operated a 90-ton Link Belt crane, carefully lifting the bridge off a DPW flatbed truck and onto the top of the spillway like a cherry atop an ice cream sundae.
“This was pretty simple. A nice, easy job and it looks great,” Polzella said.
City workers have to install concrete aprons on each side of the bridge so that wheelchairs will have access. There will also be plantings to beautify both sides of the bridge.
The bridge should be open to the public within three weeks or so.
Polzella’s expert maneuvering was noticed by several neighbors across the street who came outside to watch the show.
Cathy Perri Campbell and her husband, Doug, watched with Cathy’s aunt, 92-year-old Carmella Perri, born and raised in Derby.
Cathy, also a lifelong Derby resident, said Witek Park is a gem.
“When I was growing up we were never allowed over there because it was a working reservoir,” she said.
The Campbells said the new walking bridge is a welcome addition.
“I’ve seen so many people trying to walk around the reservoir, then just about stumble walking down that hill,” Doug Campbell said.
DeFala, who grew up and still lives not far from Witek, said his department has made a number of improvements to Witek, especially the highly visible Academy Hill side.
They fixed the parking lot and drainage issues near the memorial for Derby Medal of Honor recipient Frank Witek.
Another parking lot near the soccer fields was fixed.
Workers also replaced a roof on a small accessory building next to the spillway.
The neighbors like what they see.
“They fixed the parking lot, they out up fences, they’ve really done a beautiful job over there,” Cathy Campbell said. “Derby is moving up in the world.”