NORFOLK — After half a million dollars and a mere three months of construction, the new boardwalk at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary officially opened to the public on Saturday.
More than 50 people showed up for the opening ceremony at 11 a.m. The boardwalk was built by Coastal Marine Contractors, which is based in Canton.
While the state granted permission for people to walk on the 525-foot boardwalk on Aug. 7, sanctuary director Doug Williams knew there had to be some special, official celebration.
Williams could barely contain his excitement as the ribbon was cut by 7-year-old Nathan Marcogliese of Bellingham, and those at the ceremony were clearly eager to walk along the boardwalk and take in the views of the refuge.
Fortunately, nature did not disappoint. A snapping turtle could be seen swimming around, painted turtles were sunning themselves, a school of fish swam by, and a Canada goose taking off in flight startled a blue heron.
Also in attendance were Karl Pastore from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation; Stephen Hutchinson from Mass Audubon, and Scott Skuncik, the senior project manager with CLE Engineering.
“I think it’s gorgeous,” Pastore said. “It fits right in. It’s beautiful.”
It was in March of 2016 when DCR was asked by the sanctuary to take a look at the original, ailing boardwalk. According to Williams, the inspector was so alarmed at its decrepit condition that he ordered it closed immediately.
However, members of the Mass Audubon Society and the general public, who enjoyed their walks on the bridge through the preserve, made it known that a new boardwalk was needed, and soon.
State Representative Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, had also voiced his concerns.
In spite of deferred maintenance issues, work on the new boardwalk moved along quickly. It is 18-inches higher than the old boardwalk, which enhances the view.
Reb and Peg Butler of Hopedale came with a camera and binoculars to take in the sights.
“It’s beautiful. We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Reb Butler said.
Many of those in attendance complimented Skuncik, Pastore and Williams.
“It’s a really nice improvement,” said Janet Jordan of North Attleboro. “You can observe most of the ponds, and it gives you a peaceful feeling.”