GROTON -- Plans began to come together over this year's Groton River Festival as members of the Greenway Committee and supporters of the festival met Wednesday to discuss details.

"We want to celebrate the river and introduce people to the work of the Nashua River Watershed Association," said committee Chairwoman Marion Stoddart. "We want people to get to know the river, enjoy it, to love it and to protect it."

The semiannual River Fest has been held a dozen times, including last year, when more than 500 people attended.

To be held June 23, River Fest will be at the Petawag boat launch off Route 119 and is free.

Although the meeting covered musical attractions, food, exhibits and fundraising, a centerpiece of discussion involved merging River Fest with early plans to start up an annual Founders' Day event.

"It's something that can easily be done," said Michael Roberts, local historian and member of the town's Sustainability Committee.

Roberts appeared before the Greenway Committee to sound members out on featuring some Founders' Day events taking place alongside River Fest.

"It'll start people talking about the early founders," said Roberts, adding that whatever is decided should still be a collaborative effort between Founders' Day supporters and River Fest boosters.

Roberts called for brainstorming between the two groups and suggested only limited Founders' Day activities to start, as there was no time to prepare more elaborate events such as historical re-enactments.

Greenway Committee members were told a Founders' Day Study Committee planned to meet Feb.


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Still in the early stages of planning, the River Festival includes some mainstay attractions, including make-your-own cardboard canoe races, recreational canoeing on the river provided by Nashoba Paddler, nature displays, children's crafts, and Indian drumming and dancing led by local resident Onkwe Tase.

Paid for partially through grants provided by the Groton Conservation Trust and the Groton Cultural Council, River Fest still relies on support from residents and local businesses.

Businesses interested in becoming sponsors of the event are invited to contact Russ Murray at russmurray@gmail.com.

Also needed are volunteers. Those interested can contact Celia Silinonte at 978-448-0515 or by email at silinonte54@charter.net.

Fitch's Bridge was discussed briefly. Its replacement was supported by the committee at the recent special Town Meeting.

There, residents voted to approve the appropriation of $385,409 to pay for the removal and replacement of the historic bridge that spans the Nashua River.

Engineers hired to do the work of replacing the bridge have said that the use of one or two cranes positioned on either side of the river may be necessary to remove the span in a single piece or in halves. In addition, a floating platform or barge might also be used on the river.

The new bridge would likely be installed with the original stone abutments strengthened and cleaned.

The bridge replacement would take about a week with another seven weeks or so needed for erosion control and repair of the embankments where the span meets the shore. Trees along the path leading to the bridge would be pruned to make way for the cranes but not cut down.

Committee members planned to discuss the ongoing project in more detail at future meetings.