DANVERS — As organizers push to finish the SwampWalk this year, the project got a much-needed boost from a local beer distributor last week — not in the form of a cold brew but in the form of some cold, hard cash.
Merrimack Valley Distributing Co. in Danvers has donated $500 to the project, which has been taking shape in swampland just off the Danvers Rail Trail, near the trailhead at Route 97.
"We are happy to do it," said Tom Decoff, a Danvers resident, project volunteer, and vice president and chief financial officer for the company.
"There are 100 people involved with this thing. I'm a very, very small cog," Decoff said.
George Saluto has been the driving force to get the SwampWalk built, Decoff said.
"George has quarterbacked the whole thing," Decoff said. "It's halfway done."
When completed, the SwampWalk will meander 1,500 feet through the Great Wenham Swamp in the vicinity of the Choate Farm subdivision. The elevated wooden walkway is being built in two sections that will eventually form a semicircle through the swamp accessible from two points along the rail trail.
Volunteer crews have already completed a viewing platform and parts of both ends of the semicircle. The rest will be finished later this year, with some work scheduled for May and more in October.
The walkway provides sweeping views of ponds, beaver dams and lodges. During a visit to the SwampWalk on Friday, visitors could see that the beavers had even stolen some lumber meant for the wooden walkway and incorporated it into their lodge.
"The thing that impresses me are not the things that you see, but the people who built it," Saluto said of the SwampWalk. It can be hard, physical labor installing the walkway, and the work crews are all volunteers.
Saluto is a member of the Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee, but no one town committee or organization is overseeing the project, which is being built by volunteer labor and donations.
The new walkway replaces a rotted wooden one that Conservation Commission members used to view land for the Choate Farm housing project, a walkway that was used to reach an old duck blind for hunters.
On one visit nearly 10 years ago, Saluto fell through the boards, but when the commission members reached the end, they were greeted with sweeping views of the swamp. The original walkway is inaccessible to the public, so the walkway project was shifted to town land accessible from the new Danvers Rail Trail.
With Merrimack Valley's donation, $4,500 is needed to buy lumber for the fall build, Saluto said. Residents have already kicked in $2,000, and the developer of Choate Farm, Pulte Corp., contributed $2,000. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation gave a $26,600 grant.
About $5,888 is left for the spring build.
If you want to donate, send a check payable to the "Town of Danvers — SwampWalk" to Susan Fletcher, assistant director of planning and human services, Danvers Town Hall, 1 Sylvan St., Danvers, MA 01923.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.