December 6, 2021

On firm footing again

Long absent pedestrian bridge in McGraw reinstalled

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

John Gibbs, left, and Todd Bassett, right, of the Cortlandville highway department guide a 24-foot-long footbridge into place Thursday over Smith Creek in McGraw.

Four small faces peered out the windows Thursday of Connie Neff’s home on East Academy Street in McGraw, watching as a footbridge was dropped into place over Smith Brook.

Neff runs a day-care facility out of her home and says she welcomes the footbridge, which will make getting the kids to playground on Clinton Street easier.

Now she can just cross the bridge to Spring Street, rather than backtracking around four streets.

“I would probably use it more than anybody else in town,” Neff said.

Public demand for the footbridge, which was removed about 10 years ago, led Cortlandville and and McGraw officials to decide last year to take it from storage and re-install it.

Last year Cortland County Legislator Michael Barylski (D-Cortlandville) heard about the interest from residents and volunteered to find out what needed to happen to reinstall the bridge.

Cortlandville removed a bridge that allowed vehicles in 2006 following ice jams and floods, said town Supervisor Dick Tupper.

A footbridge that replaced it was removed in 2010 for the same reason.

When Barylski explored the idea of replacing the bridge, he found no state Department of Environmental Conservation concerns—the only problem that remained was liability.

The stream is prone to flooding, so neither the village nor the town wanted to accept liability — until now.

McGraw Mayor Allan Stauber agreed to have the village take liability.

“We haven’t had any major storm events lately,” said Stauber as he stood watching the work Thursday morning. “It’s a risk, but a minimal risk.”

The village and town reached an agreement: Cortlandville handed the bridge over to McGraw with the understanding the town would provide provide equipment the village lacks to temporarily remove the bridge if heavy rain and flooding are predicted.

“If it floods and the bridge needs to be pulled, we agreed that if possible we will send equipment down and pull it,” Tupper said. “But if there’s flooding in other parts of the town, the agreement says we are going to take care of the town people first.”

Barylski and Stauber watched village and town public works officials install the bridge Thursday morning, and they said the event is a culmination of teamwork.

“It really was a feel-good project for all of us,” Barylski said. “The convenience of that location is something that a lot of the residents have been desirous of having reestablished.”