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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On pins and needles

missingpin.jpg
The missing pin

normalpin.jpg
A normal one
(Image courtesy of Curtis Betts)

NEWTON

Curtis Betts had always worried about the small steel cotter pins that were used to hold in the large, galvanized steel pins connecting cables of the new Blue Heron Bridge in Newton to its walkway.

Not only were they disconcertingly flimsy-looking for a piece of hardware with such an important job, but they were also within easy reach of anyone who felt like kneeling down on the $2 million pedestrian connector between Newtonville and Watertown and trying to yank one out.

For months, Betts tried to get the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to fix what he saw as a glaring design flaw, but was told that there was nothing to worry about. Then, during a walk on Thanksgiving weekend, Betts' worst fears were realized: one of the cotter pins was missing.

He tried again to contact DCR by e-mail, but again couldn't get anyone to answer him.

"This was my first experience with asking them (the state) to do something," said Betts, a member of the group Friends of Albemarle, which advocates for preservation and improvements to the area surrounding Albemarle Park and Cheesecake Brook. "One could get cynical from such experiences."

It wasn't until the Globe called late last week that DCR swung into action. Within hours of an inquiry by a reporter, a spokeswoman for DCR said a crew was on scene, replacing the missing pin, and that the agency was considering a permanent solution, which probably involved pins with permanently welded ends.

-- Ralph Ranalli

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