April 09, 2020

Bridgewalk events set for Saturday

PROSPECT – Eugene Churchill of Orland was just 10 years old when the Waldo-Hancock Bridge opened in 1931.

He didn’t attend the ceremonies then, but drove over with his brother-in-law later in the day.

At 85, Churchill said he’s looking forward to the opening of the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory later this year.

“I never thought I’d see another bridge,” he said.

Churchill and others who were present at the opening of the old bridge will be on hand Saturday for the Penobscot Narrows Bridgewalk, which will open the bridge to pedestrians for the day. The bridge is scheduled to open to vehicle traffic later this year.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Churchill, a former state representative who served in the Legislature while the bridge was being designed. “I think it will be a great addition to the area, especially once the old bridge is out of the way.”

The construction of the Waldo-Hancock Bridge changed things in the area Churchill said, and closed Leach’s ferry, which had been the only way for automobiles to cross the Penobscot from Prospect to Bucksport

“Wendell Leach ran the ferry,” he said. “It didn’t take more than two or three cars at a time.”

The Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce BridgeFest Committee has planned a full day of activities for Saturday’s Bridgewalk.

The bridge will open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although most events are scheduled to end by 3 p.m. Shuttle buses from parking areas in Bucksport, Verona Island and Prospect also will stop running at 3 p.m.

Gov. John Baldacci will be joined on the bridge by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, along with other state representatives. They are expected to speak at the eastern pylon at 9:30 a.m.

Bands from Bucksport and Searsport high schools will mark the event with a march across the span beginning a 10 a.m. They will be joined by a color guard and Civil War re-enactors.

A boat parade is scheduled to pass under the bridge at 11 a.m. Among the boats that plan to participate in the parade are the schooner Bowdoin, the tug Pentagoet and research vessel Friendship, all from Maine Maritime Academy, and the Sunbeam from the Maine Seacoast Mission.

Representatives from the Penobscot Nation will perform a Smudge Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. At 1 p.m., the 195th Army Band will perform on the bridge, followed by the St. Andrews Bagpipe Band at 2 p.m.

Although no vendors will be allowed on the bridge itself, several businesses and organizations will have booths set up on the Verona Island approach to the bridge and will sell food and bridge T-shirts. Local musicians also will perform throughout the day.

The local committee working with the state departments of transportation and conservation, has arranged for parking at several locations in Bucksport, Verona Island and Prospect and will run shuttle buses from most of those sites to either end of the new bridge.

Parking will be available in Bucksport at the Elm Street Congregational Church, the town dock, the town office lot with shuttle stops at the Chamber of Commerce building on Main Street; on Verona Island at the town hall with shuttle stops at JD’s Market; The Rox Shop, and the Bend in the Road Gift Shop with no shuttle stops; and in Prospect at Fort Knox and Perry’s Variety Store and gas station.

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