EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 8, 2009

Officials plan park at Methuen's Sands Bridge site

METHUEN — In the woods off Hampshire Road is an old stone bridge that historians said will make a nice attraction for the city.

The spot is between Interstate 93 and Hampshire Road, near the Salem, N.H., border, and it's home to Sands Bridge, a dry, stone, double-arch structure built in 1835.

The bridge is visible from the street, but the lot it's on is a hole in the wall — people who don't know the bridge is there can easily drive by without noticing it.

Historians said the land is a diamond in the rough. Sands Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and city officials want to make the area more accessible to the public.

They have unveiled plans to build a park with walking paths, viewing areas, "rustic seating" and a parking lot. They also want to restore the bridge so that and the park construction will cost an estimated $200,000, according to Alene Reich, the city's historic planner.

"Because it's such a unique resource, I think that it's one worth saving because one, it has a great history, and it's also unique in the nation," Reich said.

Reich plans to piece together federal, state and local grants to make the plan reality. She acknowledged that's a daunting task in today's economy, and she said it's too soon to tell how long it will take.

"In the short-term, I think, honestly, we'll have some growing pains," she said. "But I think the end project is very feasible, very fundable and I really look forward to reaching that point."

Officials plan to work on the land in the meantime. They plan to hold a cleanup "to try to bring some more attention to the site, spruce it up a bit," Reich said.

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