BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — It took many weekends and countless volunteer hours of lumber hauling, pile driving and cordless drilling to complete the wooden walkway through the Great Wenham Swamp, known as the SwampWalk.
Saturday at 10 a.m., volunteers will gather to mark the grand opening of the third-of-a-mile boardwalk through the swamp in Danvers and Wenham. There will be a short ceremony on the observation platform, including a talk by Selectman Bill Clark. Refreshments will include “work-crew chow” supplied by Supreme Roast Beef on Maple Street. Wetland scientists will also be on hand to give tours.
The observation platform can be reached from the north entrance of the boardwalk, which is located along the Danvers Rail Trail, 1,500 feet south of the Route 97 parking lot in Wenham.
George Saluto, one of the volunteers who worked on the project, said it was actually fun to build. Nearly 200 people volunteered, including a dedicated group of regulars and some who just happened by and picked up a cordless drill for an hour.
The project never had a boss, said Saluto, who called it a collaborative effort.
Lumber and supplies were purchased using a $26,000 state grant, along with $14,000 in private donations. Money has been set aside to pay for maintenance, Saluto said.
The idea to build the SwampWalk came during the permitting of the Choate Farm development in 2003 when Conservation Commission members — Saluto used to be one — used an old wooden walkway to reach a duck blind for hunters overlooking the pond, to get a better view of the upscale housing project. This old platform is now inaccessible, so a group came up with the idea to build a new one on swampland owned by the towns.
Wetland scientists drew up environmental and engineering plans, and officials in both Danvers and Wenham approved the project. The first pilings were driven in the spring of 2010.
Susan Fletcher, a town planner, said the SwampWalk has grown so popular it even has its own Facebook page, where people post photos of muskrats, eagles, turtles and frogs. Fletcher said the walkway has caught on with residents of Danvers, Wenham and Topsfield.
For those who have trouble walking, a van will be on hand at the Route 97 parking lot to drive people to the SwampWalk for the grand opening. To make a reservation, call Fletcher 978-777-0001, ext. 3027. The van will make as many trips as needed for those making reservations.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.