Sunset Lake Floating Bridge

44°02′33″N 72°36′17″W / 44.042525°N 72.604651°W / 44.042525; -72.604651 The Sunset Lake Floating Bridge is a floating bridge that spans Sunset Lake in Brookfield, Vermont, United States. The bridge is supported by floating barrels because the lake is too deep for traditional pilings. It is presently closed to car traffic due to damage.

CHAPTER VII THE FLOATING BRIDG E by Kit Gage What goes from bank to bank yet seldom moves, is a diving platform, a truck wash, a film star, a swimming instructor and a shortcut? If your answer is the Floating Bridge in Brookfield, you are right . Over the years the bridge has been all of these things and more . I vividly remember learning how to swim at the bridge when my sister, Debbie, threw me off an attached raft . As she was paying attention to older boys at the time, I had the choice of sinking or swimming .

Although the bridge stretches from bank to bank and seldom moves, on one occasion it moved considerably. A truck with a hydraulic shovel mounted on it tried to cross as it proceeded towards a job at Silver Towers. Because of its flexible construction the bridge settled and gave to accommodate the great weight of the vehicle. Whereas most of us remember getting our tires wet as we drove across the bridge, not many of us ever saw water five feet deep on it. An old fisherman was fishing near the west apron and as the truck approached the halfway point of the bridge, he became alarmed and tried to wave the driver to a stop . As the water approached the fisherman's chest, he decided to make his escape by pulling himself along the railing to dry land . When the truck was nearly across, the bridge could stand the weight no longer and slipped sideways, dumping the vehicle into the water . The driver escaped with a good soaking and a tongue lashing by the old fisherman . Even though the bridge was at first submerged and then rotated sideways until nearly perpendicular, the state highway engineers could find little serious damage to the structure and we continued to travel across it . It proved to be as tough and as sinewy as the people who conceived the idea of a floating bridge .

Back in the year 1810, the residents on the west side of the pond found it difficult to get to the community on the east side in the summer time . They could go either north or south of the pond but with horse-drawn vehicles it added uch time to their journey . In winter it was much quicker just to cross the ice . Talk of a bridge was commonplace at this time but it took a tragedy to create the bridge . Daniel Belknap was in a hurry on November 22, 1813 and decided to cross the thin ice instead of going around . As a result of this decision he broke through the ice and drowned . The townspeople mourned the loss of their friend and neighbor and after much thought a group of people decided to build a bridge across the lake. In the winter of 1820 a bridge of logs was built on top of the ice. When the ice melted that spring, Brookfield had its first floating bridge . Every few years new logs had to be added to the bridge as the old ones became waterlogged and lost their flotation . This type of bridge remained until 1884 when Orlando Ralph devised a flotation system using kerosene barrels . These tarred, wooden barrels were kept in place by the cribbing of the bridge 's structure and the roadway itself. succeeding bridges kept this basic design until the present bridge was built in 1978 .

In 1936 the sixth bridge to cross the pond was built by the town of Brookfield and the State of Vermont. It cost $12,000 and was very modern . The bridge was designed to carry a 10 ton load and had two sidewalks separated from the road bed by large wooden curbings. The lumber used in this bridge was all pressure treated with creosote and the 380 oak barrels had been dipped in hot tar . These barrels were held in place by chains as had been done since the fifth bridge built in 1913 . Over the years the barrels would develop leaks . It was a scary sight to me in the early 60 's to swim under the bridge and see how many barrels were hanging in the chains, providing no flotation whatsoever . Every spring the State Highway Department would send down a dozen or so men to spend a week replacing some of the barrels. To celebrate the new bridge a pageant was staged by the townspeople . Records and scripts of this pageant are in the Town Clerk ' s office . A great deal of Brookfield history is contained in the pageant script and it makes wonderful reading. The pageant was a big production for Brookfield and people came from all over to attend .

The Herald and News of Randolph carried an extensive report of the various activities of the day, from the riding exhibit at Green Trails to the dance on the bridge that night. This, the sixth bridge, was the one that most of us remember . This bridge was designed to last 50 years and nearly did so. During the summer of 1978 the seventh Floating Bridge was built .. The basic structure remained the same as the preceding three except that the wooden barrels were replaced by plastic containers filled with styrofoam . They are functional but lack the mystique and romance of the old wooden barrels . This modern bridge even has raised sidewalks to keep your feet dry and to prevent you from slipping on the slimy, green wood that had been under water all summer . Part of the fun was watching the "summer folk " try to cross the old bridge by doing a tightrope walk across the curbing to keep from getting their feet wet . The bridge has been a filmstar for years with an occasional facelift to keep it presentable. From postcards to portraits to a photo of Mom and -the kids, there have been thousands of pictures celebrating the ingenuity of our early townspeople. The bridge was not always popular. Early in 1884 local townspeople were complaining about its poor condition . Some people wanted it to be repaired while others wanted a road built around the north end of the pond . The town Selectmen took no action on the matter so the pro-bridge group appealed to the County Road Commissioner who ordered the bridge repaired and the town to pay $350 .00 for the repairs . The Selectmen refused to do so and got a court injunction against the town-financed repairs . The bridge advocates then contributed the funds necessary for the repairs . Not to be outdone, the Selectmen laid out a new road around the north end of the pond . In the end, townspeople continued to use the bridge, tempers cooled and the road was never built . It sounds as if that debate was as exciting as the current debate over whether or not to pave the road through the Village. If' the bridge had eyes and could talk we could hear stories of many happenings on and around it . Norwich and Vermont College students used to "skinny dip" off the bridge when colleges recessed in June . One family of boys used to paddle caskets around the pond . They made strange looking rowboats . An Olympic hopeful practiced "sculling " on the pond because it was "quiet" water, and one young lady spent an afternoon waterskiing, being mindful of where the bridge was . What if the road had been built around the pond? If there were no bridge how would we decorate the telephone wire that passes over it ?

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