It’s been 14 years now since the 2006 Mother’s Day storm rammed the Ipswich River into the Mill Road Bridge,almost collapsing one of its three brick arches and closing the bridge for three years. Fences were erected at either end, effectively making the bridge feel like a demilitarized zone between Hamilton and Ipswich Massachusetts. And thus did the Mill Road Linear Park begin its brief three-year life.
At first it seemed like a terrible inconvenience, but soon we became accustomed to being able to step onto the road from our driveways without fear of speeding automobiles, other than the few drivers who ignored the “road closed” signs while following the GPS or talking on their cell phones. A stroll to the bridge and back became a routine, and we got to know several neighbors. Families with strollers and children on training wheels began to appear, and equestrians could walk or ride their horses down the middle of the road. Grass found its way into the now undisturbed cracks along the edges of the pavement. A deer with two fawns took up residence in our yard, along with a fox and a flock of turkeys.
After three years the bridge miraculously opened. I could cycle to Hamilton without having to circle around through downtown. Cars once again cut the corner from Topsfield Road onto Mill Road without slowing down and I risk my life every time I go out to the mailbox. The deer, foxes and turkeys have moved on, and I’ve forgotten my neighbors’ names.