ERVING, Mass. (WWLP) – The Town of Erving hosted a reception Thursday afternoon recognizing the completion of a safety barrier installation at the French King Bridge.
The French King Bridge soars above the Connecticut River between the towns of Gill and Erving along Route 2. Ever since the bridge was constructed nearly 100 years ago, it’s been known for it’s beauty and views from its pedestrian walkway. Unfortunately, it’s extreme height has also attracted dozens of people who have wanted to end their lives.
“It became a location that people sought out on the depths of their worst days and it has effected so many people,” said Mariah Kurtz, Erving Town Planner. “And now we enter a new iteration of the bridge, one that is safer.”
There are now nine-foot steel barriers on either side that recently were installed by MassDOT. This safety barrier installation will also make the job of first responders here much safer.
First responders from Gill, Erving, and the State Police used to respond on a regular basis to calls about the bridge, sometimes having to search in the cold and treacherous waters, now those calls are few and far between.
There were efforts for decades for this now completed project like from Stacey Hamel, a grieving mother whose son jumped from the French King Bridge, and while this is undoubtedly helping, the sentiment was that there’s still work to be done.
“Putting barriers on every bridge is not the answer. Removing the stigma around mental illness, recognizing signs when somebody is struggling, and making sure that we have the resources to treat mental illness. It’s the only way to truly address suicide as well as self harm,” said State Representative Susannah Whipps.
The Safety Barrier installation was in construction since 2020 and cost over $6 million but now many lives will be saved.