Connectivity plan marks a banner day

The Chitty Chatty Bridge is the second of four major bridges in the southern region of The Villages to be placed in its permanent home.

The vision of linking residents to shopping, amenities and services Villages-wide has hit another major milestone as the second bridge to cross State Road 44 is now in place.

Motorists traveling on SR 44 near Rohan Regional Recreation Center can’t miss the new gateway — the second of four major bridges to be placed in its permanent home in the community’s southern region.

“It’s often been said you know when you’re in The Villages, and these new bridges are no exception,” said Tracy Morse, vice president of design, The Villages. “You’ll know when you’ve arrived.”

Once completed, the Chitty Chatty Bridge will connect to Rohan Regional Recreation Center, Deaton Plaza, Brownwood Paddock Square, the villages of Chitty Chatty and Bradford, and an 18-hole championship Southern Oaks golf course.

The Chitty Chatty, Brownwood and Water Lily bridges are progressing through phases of construction, with all necessary approvals obtained to move forward with completion in the coming months.

The Brownwood Bridge, located a few miles west of the Chitty Chatty Bridge, was set in place over SR 44 last August. When completed, it will connect to a pond bridge behind the Barnstorm Theater on one side of SR 44 and, on the other side of the highway, to a system of trails and pathways that will lead to another bridge being built over Florida’s Turnpike.

That Turnpike bridge, called the Water Lily Bridge, will connect residents to the community on the west side of the Turnpike, landing in the Village De Luna near the Water Lily Recreation Center.

A second Turnpike bridge, called the Bexley Bridge, will connect residents to future amenities in property east of Marsh Bend Trail (formerly County Road 501) and south of Warm Springs Avenue.

“These structures will not only add to the ease of movement throughout The Villages community but they will continue to be a fun, celebratory sense of arrival and departure for years to come,” said Mike Pape, land planner.

The Chitty Chatty Bridge is constructed of corten steel, which weathers to form a rust-like appearance that eliminates the need for painting. It’s designed to be reminiscent of steel train trestle bridges of a bygone era.

“These elements are symbolic of historic town markers and were often utilized to mark important places,” said Ed Plaster, architect. “These impressive structures will serve as both symbolic and functional gateways.”

The Chitty Chatty Bridge and the Brownwood Bridge are still considered construction sites, and the public is asked to avoid the area for their safety and the safety of workers.

The bridges “give us a glimpse of our future,” said Rep. Brett Hage, R-Oxford, whose District 33 office includes all of The Villages and Sumter County. “It also shows the Morse family’s commitment to Sumter County for the next 20, 25, 30 years.”

When completed, the new bridges will make it possible to navigate the community by golf cart from Marion County Road 42 in the north all the way south from Brownwood across State Road 44 and beyond. 

“Residents tell us all the time how much they enjoy the golf cart lifestyle,” Morse said. “Our vision for full connectivity is all about making sure folks can travel by golf cart anywhere they want in the community. We hope this will be one more reason Villagers are proud to call The Villages home.”

Senior writer David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.