New Footbridge Near Hoffman Site

24 August 2003

What a gorgeous day! And lot’s of good energy to go along with it!! At the appointed hour of 9 am, ten eager volunteers (along with 3 state park employees) met at the kiosk parking lot of the Forest of Nisene Marks to hike up to Hoffman’s Historic Site and replace one of the footbridges that had rotted. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions.

Mike Hammes is showing Jeff Hicks the correct technique for planing the log.
Mike Hammes is showing Jeff Hicks
the correct technique for planing the log.

All the volunteers join ranks to move the log to the bridge site.
All the volunteers join ranks
to move the log to the bridge site.

Jim Belcher (left) and Jeff Hicks (right) focus all their attention (and energy) on preparing the log for decking.
Jim Belcher (left) and Jeff Hicks (right) focus
all their attention (and energy)
on preparing the log for decking.

Elin Kienitz and Mickey D’Alessio (of state parks) are joined by several volunteers to make the final adjustments in placing the new stringers.
Elin Kienitz and Mickey D’Alessio (of state parks)
are joined by several volunteers to make
the final adjustments in placing the new stringers.

Jeff Hicks instructs Tiia Kienitz on the finer points of hammering.
Jeff Hicks instructs Tiia Kienitz
on the finer points of hammering.

Everyone poses proudly on the new footbridge.
Everyone poses proudly on the new footbridge.

The scope of the project consisted of removing the decking from the existing footbridge where the “stringer” (the support beam underneath) had rotted, locating another suitable replacement from available downed wood in the area, moving into place the new stringer and reattaching the decking. It doesn’t sound like much but, as we found out, this was a BIG project.

Because of its complexity, there was more work than could be accomplished in one day. Therefore the state park employees (Patrick Courtright and Mickey D’Alessio under the direction of Chris Pereira) had visited the work site the previous day to prep the area. By the time we arrived, they had already removed the old footbridge and decking, placed new abutments, found a new “stringer” (from a log jam) and stripped the bark from this downed tree.

Our task was to plane the logs (they were replacing the previous support which was only one stringer with two), help move the logs into place and attach the decking. Easy, right?

Well, not so fast. Trying to plane these logs wasn’t as simple as it appeared and required adequate upper body strength. Most of us were definitely willing to address the task, but were we able? As shown in this picture at the right, Mike Hammes is explaining to Jeff Hicks (Advocates President) the finer points of working the tool to achieve this result. The second picture shows Jeff and Jim Belcher making great headway (there were a lot of personnel changes before we were done).

While this was happening, other volunteers joined Mickey D’Alessio at the grip hoist cable to prepare for the placement of these logs. This is serious, heavy work and to control the movement of this wood that weighed approximately 1,000 pounds each, state parks utilized the grip hoist system (similar to a chain comealong but more effective). As seen in the picture at right, everyone joined in to get the log to the site. Then the cable/grip hoist was put into action for the final placement.

Once the logs were in place, everyone joined in to install the decking and frame the abutments. As shown in the picture at right, first time volunteer, Tiia Kienitz, is being instructed by Jeff Hicks on the finer points of hammering a nail. Tiia was very instrumental in the day’s activities by also operating the grip hoist handle to crank in the cable for placing the logs. Her sister, Elin, had inspired her to join our workday and the two of them brought a lot of good energy with them.

Once the dirt had been replaced at each end to create a smooth transition to the bridge, everyone stood back and admired their handiwork. And we finished the project in less time than originally projected!! It always makes the hike out more enjoyable when all the details have been addressed and no one needs to return to the site to do finish work.

As seen in the picture at right, the new bridge stringers are strong, sturdy and can easily support our work crew (who are all smiles). Those volunteers not pictured are: Greg Weaver, Margrite Weaver, Richard Andrews, Linda Moore and Margaret Hicks. We do make a difference.

The only thing that dampened our spirits from an otherwise perfect day was the realization that in all probability we would not be working with these wonderful state park employees in the future. The state budget crisis is taking its toll and these dedicated workers will almost certainly be removed from their positions. We shall miss them and all the guidance they have shared with us. We thank you.