Hollis and Buxton selectmen are expected to meet next week to discuss possible safety measures that could be taken the Route 202 bridge where a 12-year-old boy was critically injured last week.

A transportation engineer was planning to meet with Buxton selectmen Wednesday night to suggest a pedestrian bridge over the Saco River at Salmon Falls, near a popular swimming area.

The developments come in the aftermath of an accident last week in which a boy, identified by hospital officials as Jack Vincent, was struck by a pickup truck as he was preparing to jump off the bridge.

Many youths cooling off in the river on hot summer days ignore signs posted on the narrow Route 202 bridge prohibiting jumping and swimming from the bridge.

York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette had asked the Maine Department of Transportation for a fence to prevent jumping from the bridge, which links the towns of Buxton and Hollis, but the state declined to act. The two-lane bridge, which handles heavy truck traffic, doesn’t have a sidewalk.

This week, Cyrus McCall, a transportation design engineer who lives in Buxton near the bridge, was to meet with Buxton selectmen at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in an open discussion in the selectmen’s office before the selectmen’s regular weekly meeting at 7 p.m., after the American Journal deadline, to explain his proposal for a pedestrian bridge. As a resident and a parent, McCall said, he initiated the meeting.

“There’s tons of traffic,” McCall said Tuesday and he “absolutely” had feared an accident on the bridge.

“It’s very treacherous,” he said.

Hollis Selectman Ben Severance said the Hollis board hopes to meet with Buxton selectmen at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14, at an undetermined location, but possibly at the Salmon Falls Library near the bridge.

“We have received a lot of calls,” Severance said. “Right now, there’s precious little we can do.”

Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Tuesday it hadn’t heard from anyone following last week’s accident. Ouellette said his department continues to get calls daily about jumping from the bridge.

“We respond when we get a call,” Ouellette said, but he said generally no one is there when deputies arrive.

McCall, who works at home for an out-of-state firm, is proposing either a pedestrian bridge with a space between it and the present highway bridge or a pedestrian bridge just down stream. His second alternative could use existing stone abutments of a former bridge.

McCall said he didn’t yet have a firm handle on what the work would cost, but he offered a rough estimate of $200,000.

Hearing about McCall’s pedestrian bridge idea, Severance asked, “Who is going to pay for it?”

McCall said “the town should step up with some money” and the state should help share in the cost.

Chris Vincent of Portland, father of the boy who was hit on the bridge, said the state should erect a “catwalk” on the old bridge abutments so kids wouldn’t have to walk across the highway bridge. He suggested that posted signs prohibiting jumping from the catwalk would eliminate potential liability.

Meanwhile, despite the accident, swimmers are still illegally risking jumps from the bridge, even though there’s an abandoned bridge abutment on the Buxton side where jumping and swimming isn’t prohibited.

“It’s too tame,” said John Mattor, who was working on trails Tuesday at the nearby Indian Cellar nature preserve, about why people still risk jumps from the bridge.

McCall said the old bridge “pier” about 15 feet above the river on the Buxton side is almost as high as the bridge.

“The water is so deep no one ever touches bottom,” McCall said, calling the swimming hole “famous.”

A parking lot on the Hollis shore serves the Salmon Falls Library and visitors to the 80-acre Indian Cellar nature preserve.

Many swimmers park in the lot and cross the narrow bridge to the Buxton shore to jump off the old abutment. Several teens Tuesday morning parked in the lot, jumped from the bridge and swam to the Buxton shore. Severance suggested a parking area on the Buxton side of the river so swimmers wouldn’t have to cross the bridge to their favorite swimming hole.

McCall, who swims from the old abutment, said he has a stake in safety in the area. “I have a 6-year-old son,” he said.

In an acrobatic flip, Nick Otenti of Killingly, Conn., jumps Tuesday into the Saco River after swinging on a Tarzan-type rope from the Buxton shore near the Route 202 bridge where jumping is prohibited. Photo by Bob Lowell.This big rig Tuesday crosses the centerline of the Route 202 bridge over the Saco River dividing Buxton and Hollis to avoid three youths crossing the bridge to a Buxton swimming hole. There’s no sidewalk. Photo by Bob Lowell.


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