Preservationists’ bid for Route 136 scenic designation well received
Westporters campaigning to preserve the Saugatuck swing bridge won’t know for at least a month the status of their application for designation of the town’s first state-sanctioned “scenic” road, but a state official on Thursday expressed support for recommending the plan.
Colleen Kissane, chairwoman of the state’s Scenic Road Advisory Committee, spoke about the scenic-road application Thursday at the senior center to a small group, including the four local residents who petitioned to have a 1.8-mile section of Route 136 — which is carried over the Saugatuck River by the 132-year-old bridge — designated as “scenic” by the state.
“It was a great submittal,” she said, noting the application covers a range of criteria that the committee considers, among them significant natural and cultural features, historic sites, unique natural and geological features, and engaging vistas.
“It covers all of the things that we talked about,” Kissane said.
But winning final approval for a scenic designation of the section of Route 136 from Bridge Street, just west of the William Cribari Memorial Bridge to the corner of Compo Road South at the Post Road, may not be easy since that decision rests with the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. The commissioner is the same official who will make a final decision on what will be done to the historic swing bridge, the preservation of which was a prime motivation in the petitioners’ proposal to designate that section of road as scenic.
Asked whether the controversy over the future of the bridge could thwart attempts to get scenic-road designation approved, Kissane does not think so, but noted it could potentially slow down the process. “It’s another level of approval,” she said. “Environmental projection would have to weigh in on it … Tourism would weigh in on it, where normally they would not.”
She indicated, however, that officials at the state level had already been giving consideration to the road’s recognition in some form. “There’s a lot of people that want to preserve that and find a way to keep that the way it is … whether it’s designated scenic or not,” she said.
“They’re going to work with you the best they can to make it something that is meaningful to the town, but also safe for the public,” she said.
Regarding the application, she said, “The two things that stood out (were) the Gault barn complex” on Compo, which she called “amazing,” and the Saugatuck swing bridge, which she noted was highlighted by the application.
Asked whether the designation has any drawbacks, Kissane said there were none as far as she is concerned. She said scenic-road designations, which have been granted to about 300 sections of road throughout Connecticut, generally add to civic pride and potentially increase tourism and interest in the community.
She said that there are no restrictions imposed on properties along a scenic road by the designaton. In fact, she said, while it’s never happened, her committee could potentially rescind the designation if it felt that changes or construction along a scenic road had negated the reasons it was granted in the first place.