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Imagine a day where you wake up late and are in danger of being late for school.
Now imagine you try to make up the time by taking the shortcut through Bartlem park, only to discover the trail is flooded and impassable.
Agony. Disbelief. Horror.
That’s what Cheshire teen Matthew Borowy felt when that exact scenario played out for him a while back, and he decided to make sure it never happened again.
Borowy, 17, a senior at Cheshire High School, missed the bus one morning and had to walk to school. He decided to go “the short way” and walk the trails behind Bartlem Recreation Area. On this particular trail, which was narrow and filled with debris, Borowy hit the stream that usually can be crossed by hopping from rock to rock. However, the stream had flooded, making the area impossible to cross. He had to double back, go the long way, and was late for school.
“I couldn’t get to school the short way because it was flooded,” he explained, “so I had the idea to build a bridge.”
Another nearby trail already has a bridge, but for him to access that particular area he would have to cut through a resident’s backyard, something he said he didn’t want to do. So, he spoke to the local neighborhood association, which just so happened to be looking for someone to do exactly what he was planning. Borowy also was able to use the project as part of his requirements to meet Eagle Scout status with the local Boy Scouts. To fulfill the Eagle requirement, a Scout has to “plan, lead and accomplish” a project that “helps the community,” Borowy said, and this new bridge is an example of that.
“The day after we finished, I used the trail to walk home from school,” he said. “I think it’s really good to have it there.”
To do the project, however, Borowy needed to get the necessary approvals, which took nearly four months. Dealing with permits from the Town, the Boy Scouts, and a neighborhood association was more time consuming than the actual project, he said, and he is happy he was able to complete it.
“It was up to us to obtain all the materials, so we spent about $50 ourselves and everything else was donated,” Borowy said. “I am really happy we did it.”
Working with the Scouts, Borowy cleared 100 feet of trail that had become overrun with foliage. Then the matter of crossing the stream came up. Borowy had heard of other kids slipping and falling off the rocks before, but no one was ever hurt, he recalled. Rather, most just ended up soaking wet. Using two utility poles that are 22 inches in diameter and 42 feet long, Borowy crafted two edges for the bridge. Concrete footings were also added to secure the massive posts into the ground. On top are planks that are screwed into the utility poles and the result is a large, five-foot-wide bridge that spans the entire stream. In fact, there is even room on either side to allow for future flooding.
“Everyone I talk to says the bridge will be there for a long time,” he said. “They knew how hard it was to cross that stream and now no one has to do that anymore.”
After receiving all the necessary approvals, Borowy said it took four or five weekends in October and November to complete the project. He started by clearing the trail, which “took a lot of work,” he said. Then, there was “quite a bit of digging” for the concrete footings and to secure the posts to the soil. Then, using old logs, the large utility poles were rolled down to the stream. Finally, the planks were secured and the bridge was complete.
“The physical part of the project went pretty smoothly — better than we expected,” Borowy explained. “I know it’s going to help people get to the park and Cheshire High School easier now. I’m happy we did it.”