Bridge opens in Shandaken

OLIVEREA, N.Y. — Tuesday’s rain was the perfect backdrop for the opening of a new bridge in this town of Shandaken hamlet, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said.

Arriving late and wading through a sea of umbrellas and bright yellow raincoats, Hein, with no umbrella and clad only in his trademark business suit, handshaked his way to the edge of the new span on county Route 27, also known as Oliverea Road, where a deep canyon was created last year by runoff from Tropical Storm Irene.

On Aug. 28, when Irene struck the region, the Cascade Brook turned into raging floodwaters, severely damaging the road deep in the Oliverea Valley. The damage was so extensive it created a crevasse 24 feet deep by 50 feet across, requiring a bridge to be built in a place where no bridge previously had been needed.

The Ulster County Department of Public Works was able to install a temporary crossing in less than 48 hours, Hein said, then designed, built and installed a new bridge, which was completed within six months of the destruction.

Henry Stout, owner of the Full Moon Resort on County Route 47, was on hand Tuesday to give thanks.

“Following … Irene, the bridge and road repair were fast and effective,” Stout said. “Full Moon Resort appreciates that town (of Shandaken) Supervisor Rob Stanley and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein took disaster recovery efforts very seriously and recognized that transportation access to our valley represents a critical lifeline to our tourism-based economy.”

Hein said he’ll ask the county Legislature to name the new bridge the “Steven F. Fischer Memorial Cascade Brook Bridge” in recognition of the efforts of the county’s public works crews and after Ulster County native Steven F. Fischer. Fischer was a 20-year employee of the Department of Public Works who was instrumental in the construction of countless bridges across the county and who died in September 2010.

“He was highly respected for his vast knowledge and devotion to the people of Ulster County and beloved for his willingness to help others while he embodied the commitment of the County’s DPW,” Hein said.

As the rain continued to fall and the Cascade Brook roared below, Hein thanked all who worked on the project.

“It is an honor to stand here today and recognize the hard working men and women of the Ulster County Department of Public Works for their truly amazing response efforts following … Irene and to pay tribute to Steven Fischer, an outstanding public servant,” Hein said. “Not only did Ulster County DPW plan for and install this bridge in record time, but following … Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, they have put forth an extraordinary effort to systematically repair and rebuild the county’s infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed during these devastating storms.”

Said Stanley: “I would like to thank County Executive Mike Hein for all of his efforts on behalf of the residents of Shandaken — not only for getting this bridge built so quickly, but for the progress being made on the Phoenicia bridge as well.”

That bridge, which connects Route 28 to the Shandaken hamlet of Phoenicia via Bridge Street, has been closed since being badly damaged by Irene, but it is expected to reopen by the Fourth of July.

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