A Prohibited Plunge: Bourne Police Crack Down On Singing Bridge Jumpers
By: Alex Scofield
The plunge from the Singing Bridge into the Pocasset River is not the scariest part—scaling the railing on the bridge’s west side is what truly gives the jitters to the many people, mostly teenagers, who jump from the bridge on Shore Road every summer.
For countless local teens, hanging out on the Singing Bridge is a summertime ritual. How long have people been jumping off the Singing Bridge? “Forever—as long as I can remember,” said Lieutenant Richard E. Tavares, who grew up in Bourne.
This summer, however, dozens of youths who jumped from the Singing Bridge have received warnings from the police to stop diving. A town bylaw forbids jumping or diving off bridges, an act punishable by a $50 citation.
Lt. Tavares said the police vigilance this summer comes in part from a higher volume of calls the department has received complaining about youths jumping from the bridge.
“We’ve gotten complaints, so we’re going to take a more active enforcement approach,” Lt. Tavares said.
A Bourne High School student, whose name is not being published, said she jumped off the Singing Bridge for the first time earlier this summer. “It was really fun,” she said. “You don’t jump off a bridge every day.”
Signs on the Singing Bridge say that jumping and diving are prohibited, but they often go unnoticed or unheeded by the crowds who gather there on summer days.
“I didn’t even know [it was illegal], because everybody does it,” the BHS student said.
So far this summer, police officers who have caught youths jumping have done so under the presumption that they were unaware that they were breaking a town bylaw. Officers inform them that they are violating the bylaw, issue a warning, and send the youths on their way. Police also have given the benefit of a doubt to a handful of youths who almost certainly had jumped from the bridge. On two separate occasions last week, officers observed youths emerging from the Pocasset River near the bridge, but did not actually observe them jumping. They were informed that it was illegal to jump from the bridge, but were not presumed to have done so.
“For the most part, the kids have been told [of the bylaw] and been warned,” Lt. Tavares said.
Repeat offenders have had to pay, though. Two youths—both boys—received citations for jumping off the bridge this summer. Both of them had received warnings earlier this summer after police had caught them jumping off the bridge.
For now, police officers’ warnings appear to have had some effect. Over the past two weeks, police have caught fewer jumpers in the act, and have not issued any citations for violating the bylaw.
Lt. Tavares said there are middle school-age and high school-age students who hang out on the bridge. The BHS student agreed, but added that not everybody jumping was a teenager.
“When I was there, there was a guy who was doing it who looked like he was in his 40s,” the BHS student said.
For her debut dive, the BHS student was accompanied by two friends who were experienced Singing Bridge jumpers. She scaled the railing, and held hands with one of her friends—while on the railing, then while in freefall—until they both splashed into the river. She said she was almost sideways when she landed, and the impact hurt a bit.
“You can get hurt; that’s the reason for [the bylaw],” Lt. Tavares said. “It’s also a traffic issue that we’ve got to deal with.”
Two years ago, the Bourne Board of Selectmen discussed the issue of youths jumping from the Singing Bridge, as well as several other locations in town, such as the railroad bridge over Cohasset Narrows, and the Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge. At the 2009 meeting, Earl V. Baldwin, then Bourne’s chief of police and now a selectman, said he was concerned about the potential for a child to be hit by a passing car.
Selectmen were also concerned about the tendency for youths to jump off either side of the bridge. On the side of the bridge opposite the marina, the Pocasset River is shallower and a greater hazard to jump into.
“I think it makes sense,” admitted the BHS student about the bylaw. “It is probably dangerous, but it’s still something that everybody does. …Basically everybody that we know bridge-jumps.”