Bruce Brown changes the blade on his “electric ax” Monday morning to cut brush on the banks of the Sabattus River in downtown Sabattus. The retired logger and state highway worker lives at High and Main streets across from the river. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

SABATTUS — When Bruce Brown moved to his apartment at High and Main streets last year, he heard a river a stone’s throw away but couldn’t see it because of the overgrown vegetation along its banks.

“I then realized there was a waterfall across the street, but you wouldn’t hardly know it with all the brush growing around it,” the retired logger and state highway worker said.

As an amateur history buff, he researched the network of mills and nine water wheels along a fairly short stretch that powered local industries, including processors of corn, grain and locally grown rice that was stone-ground using the river’s power.

He took it upon himself to start a brush-clearing project and “earth relocation,” something the state used to do a few decades ago.

Bruce Brown shows a blade from his “electric ax” he used Monday morning to cut brush along the banks of the Sabattus River and guardrails of the High Street bridge in downtown Sabattus. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Over the past year he has, one wheelbarrow at a time, moved an estimated 70,000 pounds of sand, dirt and debris from the area to stop the erosion encroaching on his paved driveway.

“I used to be a weight lifter so I can still move a 500-pound load pretty easy,” Brown said. “It’s all downhill so it’s not too hard.”

Vines and brush had overgrown onto the sidewalk over the bridge that carries High Street over the river, forcing pedestrians to use a third of the sidewalk.

“Not only that, but it’s been so long that … the foundation of the bridge support is being pulled apart by the root system,” he said.

A large gap can be seen growing between sections of the bridge support, where the root system of a large network of trees has begun pushing it into the river along with the retaining walls around the dam just above the bridge.

The fill was full of roots and vines, which he believes will grow and hold the banking together to prevent future erosion and create an area where he can sit and enjoy watching the river flow past.

The police took notice.

“I am out here all the time, sometimes late-night, like 2 in the morning, so I have met all the police officers,” Brown said. “They seem to be OK with what I’m doing and enjoy hearing about what I have learned about the area and they like the idea of what I’m doing.”

With spring runoff, the waterfall is cascading over the rocks that can be seen and enjoyed by people passing by, as well as Brown from his self-made perch.

Bruce Brown has cleared thick vegetation and trees growing around the Sabattus River in downtown Sabattus, giving him a view of the waterfall across from his apartment at High and Main streets in Sabattus. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

 


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