Robbie Guimond has lived and worked on the Saugatuck River for more than 20 years. Since 1996 he’s owned and operated Bridgebrook Marina, one of the last old New England boatyards. He lives there with his wife, Taryn Bolotin, and 3 young daughters.
“We love Saugatuck, and have invested our lives in this community,” Robbie says. “We plan on raising our girls here, on this river.”
With the Bridge Street (aka William Cribari) Bridge back in the news — a new state Department of Transportation report favors rehabilitation over replacement — he sent “06880” some thoughts.
As a river worker, he has a special perspective:
Listening to all the chatter about the bridge, I’ve noticed something missing from every single discussion: the river underneath.
People who don’t live on the river don’t truly understand that the height of the bridge strangles the flow of boat traffic up it. I understand that if you don’t use the river for the many recreational sports it offers, or any of the restaurants, or if your home isn’t on the river, or if you don’t enjoy recreational boating in the area, then you may not care about the river.
But you should. The river from Bridge Street to Route 1 was once a thriving waterway. The library has an abandoned bulkhead/stairway to show us what could be, and what has become. Life on this river has dissipated over the years, due to the lack of dredging and the Cribari Bridge low clearance for boat traffic.
Why doesn’t the Cribari Bridge match the height of the railroad bridge? Just a few feet higher and the majority boats could pass under. The difference in this height would allow regular day boats to travel for recreational use during all tides.
Just as important, it would allow safe passage for the marine police and rescue boats to get under and have access to the boaters, kayakers, paddle boarders, rowers and anyone else on or near the river.
I’ve never heard a whisper of concern for the safety of the people who are out on the water in cold temperatures, and in early morning hours or after dusk. Mere minutes could make the difference in saving lives when you’re on the water. We would love to see the bridge clearance height raised to meet the clearance of the railroad bridge. It seems obvious.
To really breathe life back into this river, dredging would need to be addressed. The town has discussed this project for years, but has not allocated money to do so.
Raising the bridge height, along with dredging, would promote access to restaurants on the river all the way to downtown. For example, the Five Mile River in Rowayton thrives with activity.
Most boaters think the Black Duck is their only option in Saugatuck. With the impending Railroad Place Development and the massive Gault project, wouldn’t it be great to offer a seasonal “water taxi” that would create a unique, transient- oriented attribute. People could arrive by train and take a water taxi to any of the restaurants on the river. Or to the Levitt Pavilion for a show, or all the way downtown to the shops that could use some more patronage (minus the parking).
This is our one chance to get it right. We hope everyone can see what a treasure the river actually is, and plan for our growing and changing community for generations to come.