Environmental groups’ objections that maintaining the Polaris Bridge over the Hudson violates the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act (“Essex Chain questions,” January/February 2016) appear unfounded. Instead, the proposed Cedar River Bridge is the more pressing issue.
The primary purpose of the act is to designate high-quality rivers of the state that “shall be preserved in a free-flowing condition and shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.” The law is an important tool to prevent degradation but is not intended to force the removal of infrastructure. Indeed, the maintenance of existing structures (including bridges) is permitted in the act’s Table of Use Guidelines.
While the Polaris Bridge has merit as a recreational asset for hikers, cyclists, and snowmobilers and fits within the goals of the designated Primitive Area, the construction of a new bridge over the Cedar River for motorized purposes is ill conceived, unnecessary, and appears to be in violation of this statute.
Its proposed construction sheds light on the political nature of land-management decisions in the Park and the need for environmental groups and the public to ensure the state abides by its statutes. While concerns raised about the proposed new snowmobile corridor have merit, rather than seeking out the dismantling of the Polaris Bridge, focus should be on preventing the construction of the Cedar River Bridge.
Noah Pollock, Sharon, Vermont