By Patrick Cronin
The Sunday Herald, June 27, 2004
HAMPTON / HAMPTON FALLS -- Mark Thompson would like to see the Old Stage Road Bridge that divides Hampton and Hampton Falls reopened for pedestrians. But town officials said the chances of the 19th century bridge opening for pedestrian use in the future are slim to none.
The Old Stage Road Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic and pedestrian use ever since it was determined to be unsafe six years ago, according to Hampton Town Manager James Barrington.
A movement to repair the bridge back to its former glory never came into fruition and the bridge has been blocked off ever since.
Barrington said discussion about the bridge resurfaced in 2002 after a boy slipped through the guardrail on the bridge and into a pond.
While the boy was fine except for a few minor cuts, officials decided to once again take action by barricading the bridge and placing warning signs that state "keep off unsafe bridge."
Thompson, who lives in Hampton Falls, said those warning signs are ineffective and people are still using the bridge.
"Every day, people are climbing over the barriers to get to the other side of the bridge," Thompson said. "It's more dangerous to have the barriers there because people are going to cross no matter what."
He said he wants to see the bridge open because he and other residents in the area like to go for walks.
"The bridge is sturdy," Thompson said. "I understand why they don't wants cars to go over it, but the bridge can certainly hold pedestrians and bicycle riders. There is no reason why the bridge couldn't be open."
Thompson said he went to Town Hall to speak with Barrington about the possibility of opening the bridge for pedestrian use.
"I met with him several times about the issue, but I guess he was just telling me what I wanted to hear, because he hasn't done anything," Thompson said.
Barrington said while he sympathizes with Thompson's arguments, he has to look out for the town's greater good.
"Opening that bridge for pedestrian use would be a liability," he said.
Nobody should be on the bridge, and if a person is, that person is trespassing.
"We wouldn't have barricaded the bridge or put up signs if we thought the bridge was safe," Barrington said.
The bridge is jointly owned by Hampton and Hampton Falls, the town manager said.
"The town line is halfway in the middle of the bridge," he said.
Shortly after he was hired as town manager, Barrington said he received a phone call from the Hampton Falls town manager, who suggested the two towns split the cost in repairing the bridge.
While he brought the idea to selectmen, Hampton officials opted against putting taxpayer money into the bridge.
Barrington said there hasn't been that much of a public outcry about the bridge.
Thompson said if Hampton wants to keep the bridge closed, then the town should do a better job keeping people off it.
Barrington said if Thompson really wants to see the bridge open for pedestrian use, then he should try to raise money to repair the bridge.
The town manager also said the only way to ensure nobody walks on the bridge is to tear it down.
But neither Barrington nor Thompson wants to see that happen.