The Polly Coons Bridge Connects Hopkinton and Westerly Land Trusts Trails

Polly Coons Bridge

A hiker takes in the view from the Polly Coons Bridge.

photo courtesy of Scott Bill Hirst

The Westerly and Hopkinton Land Trusts recently completed a cooperative venture to build a bridge across the Pawcatuck River that links the Grills Preserve in Westerly and the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton. The new 75-foot pedestrian bridge span connects miles of trails in the 550-acre Westerly Grills Preserve with trails in the 675-acre Hopkinton Grills Sanctuary. The “Polly Coon Bridge” between Westerly and Hopkinton sits upon the historic abutments of its namesake and predecessor which had been used to haul granite from one side of the river to the other. The bridge links two recreational trail systems on both sides of the river in both towns’ land trusts. The Grills Preserve recognizes the efforts of Richard Grills who protected more than 1100 acres in Westerly and Hopkinton making it possible for the land, now the Grills Preserve, to be permanently protected.

Cutting the ribbon are (l-r) WLT board president Harvey Perry, Westerly town manager Steve Hartford, Hopkinton town council president Frank Landolfi and Hopkinton Land Trust chairperson Marilyn Grant.

photo courtesy of Scott Bill Hirst

A Recreational Trails Grant of $100,000 from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the RI Department of Transportation funded the design and construction of the project after the two land trusts partnered in submitting a grant application. Additional funding for the Grills Preserve and Sanctuary properties was provided by the RI DEM, The Nature Conservancy, the Champlin Foundation, the Forrest and Frances Lattner Foundation and the Bafflin Foundation.

Members from both the Westerly Land Trust and Hopkinton Land Trust organizations plus committed community members gave many hours of volunteer time to complete the bridge planning and construction. Inspired by the success of this project, the Hopkinton Land Trust has applied for a similar Recreational Trails Grant for trail improvements including a walkway and bridge across Tomaquag Brook at the Grills Wildlife Sanctuary on the Hopkinton side.

To reach the Grills Preserve, drive north or south on Rte. 91 to Bowling Lane. Turn west here into the Preserve. There is a parking area at the end of this road.

To learn more about the Westerly Land Trust or to become a member, please visit westerlylandtrust.org or write to us at The Westerly Land Trust, PO Box 601, Westerly, RI 02891.

To learn more about Hopkinton Land Trust or become a member of the Friends of the Hopkinton Land Trust visit HLTRI.org or write to us at Hopkinton Land Trust, One Town House Rd., Hopkinton, RI 02833.

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of Trail Mix, the Newsletter of The Greenways Alliance of Rhode Island. RI Blueways thanks the Greenways Alliance for giving us permission to republish this articles

Rhode Island Blueways Alliance • c/o WPWA • 203 Arcadia Road • Hope Valley, RI 02832