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One day back in October, the stairs from Echo Bridge down to Ellis St. suddenly were blocked off.  A sign said that the stairs would be closed for “a few weeks” for repairs.  The sign had a name and a number to call if you have any questions.

Now that months have gone by, with no signs of any progress, I decided to call.  The  number belonged to Len Cawley at the Mass Water Resource Authority (MWRA), who told me the whole story.

Hemlock Gorge Park is the property of the state Dept of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Echo Bridge runs through the middle of it.  The bridge and the stairs belong to the MWRA rather than the DCR.

They had reports that some of the wooden risers and treads on the stairs were in tough shape.  They sent a carpenter out to replace all the wooden risers and treads and when he removed the old ones he found that the wrought iron base that they were attached to was seriously corroded.  So a small and easily manageable job suddenly turned into a big job.

The MWRA is in the business of water and sewers, not parks and public facilities.  They have no money for this kind of job and its likely to be fairly expensive.   He said they’ve been asking around, trying to find out if there’s somewhere they could get the budget from, but didn’t sound too hopeful that it would happen any time soon.   So at the moment, the stairs are closed “till further notice”.

This is reminiscent of the problems a few years back when the wrought iron barriers on the top of the bridge were deemed unsafe due to corrosion.  The MWRA first announced that the bridge would be permanently closed to pedestrians.  After a hue and cry from the public, and involvement of the aldermen, the Friends of Hemlock Gorge, the DCR, and others, a compromise was forged.  A cheap and simple chain link barrier (aka snow fence) was installed inside the rotted railings and the bridge reopened again to the public.