Sports Column: New fishing platform is a boon for all

Anyone driving up Lincoln Road along the New Haven River from Bristol to West Lincoln in the past few weeks is sure to have noticed a new structure hanging over the water at Eagle Park. Indeed, over the past several months regular commuters have seen the entire project slowly take shape, including the grading and construction of a ramp leading from a parking lot down toward a bend in the river, and then eventually the appearance of a sturdy new platform and railings along with some attractive landscaping.
The observant angler may also have noticed something else about the location. The platform is directly over a good-sized pool along a stretch of the river that is beautiful in terms of trout habitat as well as scenery.
That structure is the new Chuck Baser Memorial Universal Fishing Platform. It is the result of the contributed efforts and donations of many local, statewide and even national sources, including the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, the New Haven River Anglers Association, and even the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with the Chuck Baser Fund. But the platform is especially the result of the hard work and determination — in the face of rather significant setbacks — of Bristol resident Pete Diminico and the Bristol Conservation Commission.
The name of the structure gives a good hint at its purpose. The universal fishing platform is designed to provide fishing access to anglers in wheelchairs, or who otherwise experience mobility issues. It, along with the fund that helped support its construction, is named after the local conservationist and angler Chuck Baser, who passed away in 2009.
The roughly $55,000 project actually began nearly three years ago, and Diminico had it almost completed last summer. He had worked with surveyors, obtained approval from historic preservation officials (since there is a nearby native archaeological site), and received funding largely from Vermont Fish and Wildlife, which was interested in having him build two such platforms. By July of 2011, the ramp and excavation were complete, the footings had been put in, and the $25,000 platform had been constructed and was awaiting installation. Then came Tropical Storm Irene, which entirely wiped out the ramp, laying waste to a tremendous amount of labor and planning.
Rather than giving up in discouragement and considering the project lost, Diminico went back at it with determination. He applied for FEMA funds through the town of Bristol and from November of last year to March of this year negotiated $8,800 to replace the ramp. He also went through much of the engineering permitting process all over again, with a slightly different design. And this summer the project was once again under way.
Even with all that Diminico had done to lay the groundwork, it still took a considerable amount of volunteer effort, largely through the Conservation Commission, which took care of all the landscaping among other things. LaRose Surveys did all the surveying work at a discounted price. Ed Burke at Rocky Dale Gardens donated $500 worth of perennials. And others volunteered large amounts of time. Finally, a few weeks ago, the project was complete. A beautiful new platform, made of long-lasting materials, stood above the flowing waters of the New Haven River.
Diminico says he couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out. He is particularly delighted to see the platform already in use — and not just by anglers; others in wheelchairs have been going there just to enjoy access to the river.  “I wanted to leave a project to the town that would require little maintenance,” he said, “Something that would last for years to come, and provide something meaningful for many people.”
I think he has accomplished that, and more.
For those interested in seeing this new addition to the town of Bristol, there will be a dedication ceremony on Friday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. at the platform at Eagle Park. You can also view a few photos at the New Haven River Angler’s website:  newhavenriveranglers.org/articles/chuck-baser-memorial-universal-fishing-platform.  

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