Monastery trail bridge removed after violations from RIDEM

Monastery trail bridge removed after violations from RIDEM

A sign urging walkers to lodge complaints about the removal of a bridge along the trails at the Cumberland Monastery. The bridge was removed on Monday.

CUMBERLAND – A sign urging hikers to contact their mayor to save a key wooden bridge at the Monastery was effective in bringing in the calls, but failed in its bid to prevent the removal of the trail feature.

The bridge, previously placed at a trail spot not far from the town’s highway garage, helping walkers cross a section of trail that routinely washes out, was not authorized by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said Mayor Jeff Mutter.

Once someone tipped the RIDEM off to the presence of the bridge, the town was cited, he said, and the rest was history. Efforts to ask for forgiveness, after failing to receive permission to put the bridge in, proved ineffective, said Mutter. The bridge was removed on Monday.

“We had to comply, we had no choice,” he said.

A representative from RIDEM said Wednesday morning that the agency had not officially ordered removal of the bridge and was unaware it had been removed.

Mike Healey, chief public affairs officer for RIDEM, said the agency received complaints in 2016 and 2017 about the bridge and allegations of large amounts of gravel used to upgrade the trail around it. Inspections in June of 2017 and April of 2018 found the installation of the bridge was unauthorized, as was filling in of some of the Monastery Brook with gravel.

“These activities resulted in altering about 3,000 square feet of wetlands, which is a violation,” he said.

Employees of RIDEM’s Office of Compliance & Inspection met with the town in April of last year to discuss what could be done to resolve the wetlands issues to bring them into compliance.

“Among the remedies we proposed were the town submitting a permit application to make improvements to the trail or removing the bridge and restoring the area to its pre-altered state,” Healey said. “We were not aware that the town had removed the bridge.”

The RIDEM and Cumberland have long had a productive relationship, which has continued into Mutter’s administration, he added.

“As always, we stand ready to provide guidance to help cities and towns remain in compliance with environmental laws and regulations,” he said.

A complaint inspection report from last April shows the town was cited for two unauthorized upgrades:

• Gravel filling and installation of an unauthorized “beaver deceiver,” a device used to trick beavers into not completing their dams, altering some 15 linear feet of freshwater wetland.

• And installation of gravel and the bridge, resulting in the alteration of about 3,000 square feet of freshwater wetland.

Mutter said he shares the frustration of residents who find it increasingly difficult to walk or run around the Monastery trails based on the continued flooding caused by the town’s notorious beaver population.

Trail walkers at the spot where the bridge was put in previously had to slog through mud.

The main trail loop is also routinely flooded whenever there is heavy rain, making it impassable as well, he said.

Planning and Community Development Director Jonathan Stevens is working with RIDEM officials on possible solutions for the Monastery’s trails off Diamond Hill Road, said the mayor, including possible permission to put a new bridge in.

“We believe there will be a solution fairly shortly,” said Mutter.

Comments

This state is insane. You can't move a rock or rake leaves without needing permission from the Gods at state house. Oh and don't forget the fees that go along with it.

Sure, moving a rock or raking leaves is exactly the same as building a bridge and dumping gravel into a brook.