An advocacy organization, founded in 2004, for the rehabilitation of Schell Bridge as a recreational asset for the Town of Northfield, MA.
Schell Bridge, crossing the Connecticut River in Northfield, MA, has been closed since 1987. Because of its historic significance and its recreational potential as a walking and biking bridge, the many supporters of Friends of Schell Bridge have advocated the reuse of the bridge. A restored bridge will have historic, recreational, health and economic value to the Town of Northfield.
There are a number of local initiatives that have aligned recently to make a rehabilitated bridge and trail system more than a vision. A new college or conference center will open on the site of the old campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School. The New England National Scenic Trail has a major presence within the Town of Northfield. A Northfield Trails Association has formed. FirstLight Power, owner of Northfield Mountain pumped-storage hydroelectric plant is reviewing its recreational resources in preparation for relicensing. Walking and biking bridges both upstream in Brattleboro and downstream in Montague have opened. Route 63 is now a National Scenic Byway. All of these initiatives have connections to the potential reuse of Schell Bridge as the centerpiece of a recreational trails system.
Consideration of a reopened Schell Bridge presents a potent opportunity to build the town’s character as a great place to live and raise a family and a great place to work and play. Northfield’s stunning hills and mountains, laced with streams and trails, are tremendous recreational assets for residents. The Connecticut River shoreline and banks offer potential for a trail system that would provide residents with opportunities to walk and bike along the river. A development of riverfront parks and picnicking places surrounding Schell Bridge would attract new residents and visitors.
Northfield’s history is unique. First settled in 1673, its Main Street is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was home to the world-renowned evangelist Dwight L. Moody, founder of the Northfield Schools, and to Francis Robert Schell who built a great “Chateau” and built the bridge as a gift to the town. With Schell Bridge and a recreational trails network, Northfield will again become a destination community for weekend historic travel. The potential is unlimited for seasonal festivals, historical guides, shopping, guest speakers, and public performances. A destination community, managed well, is a great place to live.
Reusing Schell Bridge for recreational purposes presents opportunities for all business entities in town, including the new campus owner. When there are more recreational opportunities in town, families and college students will stay in town on weekends, spending more at local businesses. Residents will be pleased to find new goods and services in town.
Preserving Schell Bridge for trail and recreation use holds tremendous potential for the economic, social, and cultural benefit of the town and region.