Architect Holly Cratsley surveys the work on the new bridge.

Bog bridge is open after two years at Gowing’s Swamp

By John Cratsley
May 18, 2023

Have you ever walked on a “bog bridge,” one that is three planks wide, so no one falls in the mud? 

After two years of planning and engineering, a second bog bridge was opened in Gowing’s Swamp on May 8.

Encouraged by the families in nearby Merriam Close, former Town Moderator Ned Perry and Bob White, chair of Concord’s Trails Committee, transported white cedar planks from northern Maine, sunk posts into the swamp, built the “sleepers” from the posts to the adjacent bank, and nailed in planks to cover a 80-foot stretch of consistently wet trail. 

Bob White on the left and Ned Perry on the right. They were the engineers and main builders of the bridges.

They were assisted by volunteers from the Concord Trails Committee and local residents, including John Althouse, Naiff Bethoney, Court Booth, Holly and John Cratsley, Bourke Noordzij, Willie Rodday, and Bill Robichaud. Delia Kaye, director of Natural Resources, was instrumental in seeing these structures approved and installed.

This project joins the initial bog bridge near the Ripley School, completed last fall, to create a fully accessible trail circling this protected wetland. This trail is accessible from a number of spots, but most easily from the parking lot behind the Ripley School. 

Gowing’s Swamp is mentioned 37 times in Henry David Thoreau’s journals and has been referred to as Thoreau’s Bog. It is a quaking bog with a population of a number of rare species, including black spruce and fairy shrimp. It is jointly owned by the Sudbury Valley Trustees, the Concord Land Conservation Trust, and the Trustees of Merriam Close. Both bog bridges fall within the Merriam Close Conservation Restriction and the materials were all paid for with private donations from residents in the Edmonds Road community. 

Ned Perry, the lead organizer of this effort, and Holly Cratsley, chair of the Merriam Close Trustees, each spoke briefly as the red ribbon was snipped in two and refreshments shared by all.