Griffo secures $50,000 to rebuild historic Wanakena Footbridge

State Senator Joseph Griffo on Thursday announced $50,000 in state funding that he has secured for the Town of Fine to replace the historic and iconic 112-year-old Wanakena Footbridge over the Oswegatchie River.

An ice jam severely damaged this original pedestrian bridge more than three years ago in January 2014. But with the help of Senator Griffo’s funding and widespread community support, this important landmark has been rebuilt and will be dedicated during a July Fourth celebration hosted by the Wanakena Historical Association.

Since the swaying wood bridge was first built in 1902 by the Rich Lumber Co. so workers could cross the Oswegatchie River to their jobs in several lumber mills, the Wanakena Footbridge has served for the past century as an iconic focal point of the Clifton-Fine community in southern St. Lawrence County. Once the bridge was dismantled in 2014, the only other local means to cross the river was a steel deck car bridge that wasn’t the easiest for pedestrians or animals to cross.

To help the Town of Fine achieve their goal of replacing this footbridge – which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 – Senator Griffo secured the state’s financial support as the community and the Wanakena Historical Association began a fundraising drive.

State Senator Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said: “There’s no doubt the Wanakena Footbridge has been an essential part of this close-knit community’s proud history, as an attraction for busloads of tourists and a gathering place where people have gotten married or toddlers have taken their first steps. For more than 100 years, this bridge has brought people together with fond memories and I am very pleased the funds I’ve secured have helped the Town of Fine rebuild a landmark that will always represent the unique character of this North Country community.”

Sue Westbrook, former Fine Town Supervisor and chair of the grant-writing committee for the Wanakena Footbridge Reconstruction Project Team, said: “It’s often said that Wanakena without the footbridge is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower. This footbridge is the center of our community and it’s something we’re very proud of. Senator Griffo has always been a great friend of the towns of Clifton and Fine for many, many years, and we wholeheartedly appreciate his help and support with this very special community project.”

In addition to Senator Griffo, Westbrook also thanked Allen Ditch, Marsha Smith and Ron Capone of the Wanakena Historical Association, as well as the SUNY-ESF Ranger School Alumni Association, the many volunteers, and the public whose generosity further helped bring this project to completion.

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