Two trees in Raymond, one of which held a popular rope swing, were cut down Wednesday, ending a tradition treasured by many Raymond residents.

The Raymond Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last Tuesday to cut down the two trees next to the Mill Street Bridge.

One of the trees was cut because it interfered with nearby power lines.

The second, a double-trunk pine tree that held a rope swing, was removed because the activity around it had become a liability to the town.

The bridge and the surrounding area have long been a gathering spot for local teens, who enjoy swinging into the water below from one of two ropes tied high in one of the pine trees.

But residents’ complaints to the town manager and selectmen have increased over the years, to include complaints of the danger posed by people congregating in the roadway, rude and inappropriate behavior, late night partying at the privately owned area adjacent to the bridge and stream, and alcohol and drug use in that area.

Last week, a girl on the rope swing was observed swinging over the guardrail and into traffic. The sharp bend in the road before the bridge makes it even more difficult for drivers to avoid hitting those in the road.

On a number of occasions, young people have approached cars, hitting them and using foul language.

And neighbors are fed up with the late night parties and fights that break out near the bridge.

Raymond Public Works Director Nathan White said, “We pick up probably as much as a case of empty beer cans from the spot every day.”

But some of the young people who gathered at the bridge Tuesday tell a different story. While they acknowledge there are some problems with drug and alcohol use, they say cars speed through the area, driving too fast for the roadway.

Eleven-year-old Tyler Peterson said he first learned to swim in the water at Mill Street Bridge.

And Larry Fitts, 22, who hangs out at the spot daily, said he tries to help out by picking up trash, even diving to pick litter out of the water.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, in addition to cutting the trees, the board voted to erect signs at the Mill Street site that would limit parking, prohibit jumping off the bridge. The board also agreed to install erosion control where needed and to give permission to the town manager to determine what ordinance changes needed to be made to put up signs and to suggest appropriate wording for their subsequent approval at town meeting.

Although Town Manager Don Willard also suggested installing an eight-foot chain link fence behind the guardrail and across the bridge, the board decided against taking that action at this time.

In discussing the issue of signs, some board members as well as members of the public were concerned at the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) Maine Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) lack of willingness to help.

Ten years ago, as a result of a drowning, IF&W installed a grid across the floodgate of the dam on the opposite side of the bridge to provide the means for a person to climb out if caught in the current. Since then, neither organization has helped to ameliorate the present situation.

Raymond resident Charles Leavitt suggested at the meeting that State Senator Bill Diamond and Representative John Robinson could be enlisted to put pressure on these organizations.

At this past Tuesday’s board meeting, Willard announced that MDOT would supply the signs; they will be ready in about one month.

Of the resolution made to cut down the tree, Willard said it was a hard decision.

“It’s not about taking away the fun of the local children,” he said, “it’s about protecting their safety.”

Willard went on to say that the tree had become a liability for the town and for the children.

“We’re compelled under Maine state law if we’re aware of a defect to do something,” he said.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Selectmen Mike Reynolds and Dana Desjardins agreed it was the most difficult decision either of them had to make during their tenure on the board.

The rope swing on a tree at the Mill Street Bridge in Raymond was a big attraction for area teens. The town had the tree cut down Wednesday for safety reasons.

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