This story was updated on Sept. 8 to correct the firm that Cyrus McCall works for.

 

Two Buxton residents are lobbying to have a pedestrian walkway built along a Saco River bridge so people would have a safe platform for jumping into the water.

Roy Adams of Joy Valley Road in Buxton has launched a website, www.letthemjump.org, proposing the walkway as an alternative to people standing in traffic before jumping from the state-owned Salmon Falls Bridge on Route 202. Another resident, Cyrus McCall, has created a Facebook page promoting similar proposals.

But a Department of Transportation official said structural difficulties would probably preclude at least one of the ideas, and all of them raise funding questions.

The popular bridge-jumping spot has long posed a safety hazard and has been a headache for law enforcement.

The bridge, which connects the York County towns of Hollis and Buxton, is about 25 feet above the river and has no sidewalk. For generations, young people have gathered to jump from the narrow, heavily traveled bridge, and several traffic accidents have occurred there.

Last summer, Jack Vincent, 13, of Scarborough was critically injured when he stepped into traffic to get a running start before jumping and was struck by a passing vehicle.

On Sunday, Adams posted fliers on trees near the Salmon Falls Bridge encouraging people to visit his website, where he outlines his idea for attaching a “bolt-on sidewalk” to the bridge. Adams, 33, said he has never jumped off the bridge, but has jumped once from a nearby abandoned railroad bridge abutment that is also popular with jumpers.

“There is nothing you can do to stop people from jumping off the bridge aside from putting the National Guard there to keep them from jumping,” Adams said. “This will get them out of the traffic.”

Shortly after Vincent was injured, McCall, a senior design visualization engineer for McCormick Taylor, Inc. in Portland, developed his own proposals.

He suggests either building a pedestrian bridge connecting the railroad bridge abutments or building a catwalk alongside the bridge that would connect the parking lot on the Hollis side of the river with trails in Pleasant Point Park on the Buxton side. He created a Facebook page promoting the popular swimming area, and is using the page to generate support for his proposals.

“The goal is getting people out of the road,” McCall said. “Safety is a big deal.”

Town and state officials have held several meetings to try to deter jumpers, including one organized three years ago by York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette, whose department shares patrol duties on the bridge with the Buxton police and Maine State Police.

Ouellette asked the Maine Department of Transportation to install a fence above the bridge’s concrete railing to prevent people from jumping. County commissioners agreed to donate fence from the former county jail, but DOT officials never responded, Ouellette said.

McCall said he has proposed his plans to Buxton and Hollis officials and to the DOT, which owns the bridge.

He said Buxton’s biggest concern was how it would fund the project.

“It wasn’t the embracing reaction I was hoping for,” McCall said. “I am going to keep pursuing this.”

Buxton Selectman Dianne Senechal said she hasn’t received any complaints from residents about the bridge.

“I think something needs to be done, but I don’t know what that is,” Senechal said. “We feel that our hands are tied on this matter.”

John Buxton, DOT’s bridge maintenance engineer, said at one time state officials had looked at building a fence on the bridge, but determined it would reduce the sight line for motorists pulling out of nearby intersections.

And at least some of the proposals for a walkway would probably be structurally unsound, he said.

“Structurally, the bridge probably couldn’t handle a walkway attached it,” Buxton said. “You can’t just add something to the side of a bridge. That bridge is too old.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]