New bridge completes Grills trails in Westerly & Hopkinton #RI

New bridge enhancedHarvey Buford, left, and Ted Dionne complete a day’s work on the new bridge over Tomaquag Brook yesterday.

A new bridge, connecting the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI to the Grills Preserve in Westerly RI, may be ready for hikers this weekend. The span crosses Tomaquag Brook, connecting the 3.1-mile trail from the trailhead off Route 216 in Hopkinton (pictured below) to the parking area on Bowling Lane in the village of Bradford.

Tomaquag trail at sunsetThe top of Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI at sunset yesterday

The new bridge, built by volunteers from the Hopkinton Land Trust, is less than a mile from the Polly Coon Bridge, an aluminum span, built by the Westerly Land Trust, over the Pawcatuck River.

The new bridge over Tomaquag Brook is 55 feet long, said Harvey Buford. It is about a foot higher than the 100-year-flood mark, but the boardwalks leading to it probably will be submerged in times of flooding, he said.

The new bridge has fiberglass braces and black-locust wood walkways that should endure for 100 years or so, he said.

Both of the Grills sanctuaries offer wildlife a variety of habitats, and hikers can enjoy some gorgeous New England scenery and sounds throughout the year. (For the past week, barred owls have been hooting away during the day.)

Trail maps ave available online from ExploreRI.org.

Sparkling span links Grills trails

Grills bridge

The Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI and the Grills Preserve in Westerly RI offer some lovely walks in a variety of habitats. Now, a sparkling steel bridge over the Pawcatuck River connects them, offering lots of hiking opportunities..

Grills flowersBoth properties are owned and maintained by land trusts in their communities, and August is Land Trusts Month.

The Grills Preserve, owned by the Westerly Land Trust, has more than 500 acres with over two-and-a-half miles of frontage on the Pawcatuck River. There is a large parking lot with an information kiosk at the end of Bowling Lane, off Route 91 in the village of Bradford.

The Gruills Sanctuary, owned by the Hopkinton Land Trust, is smaller, but equally beautiful. The entrance is on Chase Hill Road, at the intersection with Route 216.

Earlier this summer, the land trusts celebrated the opening of the new Polly Coon Bridge, a narrow, steel span over a  usually sleepy stretch of the Pawcatuck. (In June, with record rainfall, the river roared.

The bridge is hard to find from the Hopkinton side. Follow the white-blazed Tomaquag Trail that starts in a farm field near the parking lot. (Note the cool stone bridge over Wine Bottle Brook.) Turn right onto the red blazed trail and follow that to the end, and then turn right and follow the trail to the bridge.

Grills trailFrom the parking lot at the end of Bowling Lane in Bradford, take the red- and blue-blazed trail to the right of the kiosk. Take the first right onto the blue trail and follow it over two small bridges for about 25- to 30-minutes. When the blazes end, keep going along the river, and you will find the shiny new bridge on the right.

Most of the trails offer easy footing, but they are too rough for a wheelchair or stroller. You can easily, and enjoyably, spend a whole day in the two properties. The sanctuary on the Hopkinton side, has lots of beautiful benches along the trails, and picnic tables near the parking lot.

Rhode Island has 48 trusts that belong to the state’s land trusts council, and most of them offer recreational opportunities for families. During Land Trust Days, through the end of September, there will be more than 60 guided walks on land managed by trusts and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

For maps and information, visit ExploreRI.org.