By Jean Brennan, Member of the West Jersey Trail Crew
In the spring of 2015, the West Jersey Trail Crew began work in Stokes State Forest on a new realignment of the Stony Brook and Blue Mountain trails, including a new 36-foot-long bridge over the Stony Brook. The park superintendent, Josh Osowski, decided to relocate the shared parking and trailhead area for the two trails, and the crew was asked to build the bridge.
On May 30, the abutment on the western bank of the stream was constructed. A gigantic rock just upstream of the bridge location was moved into place, using a griphoist winch as a come-along. Other large rocks were moved with a high line and set in place behind it, creating a firm foundation on that side. Three very large rocks topped off the new abutment.
On June 6, the crew constructed the abutment on the eastern bank. The stream curves and flows towards this bank, where a pile of rocks that were clearly the abutment for a historic bridge is located. The crew reused this abutment, but cleared the collapsed front edge and replaced it with boulders moved in with the griphoist. A massive flat rock was found approximately 100 feet away; all agreed that it would be an ideal “topper.” The challenge was to move it to the site and then place it on top of the other boulders. Two team members on a high line and three on a rope lifted and pulled this rock over the five-foot wall of the remaining old abutment and set it in place. The rock was wide enough to form the complete top of the abutment. The heavily eroded stream bank on this side was reinforced with rocks in an extensive rip-rap wall.
September 12 was bridge construction day. Previously, two large utility poles had been brought by flatbed truck to the trailhead by Stokes Park staff. At the beginning of the day, the poles were dragged by tractor to the bridge site by park maintenance head Steve Marino. Two griphoists were used to pull the utility poles across the Stony Brook and into place. The leading end of the pole was lifted by the first winch, rigged as a high line, and the second winch was used to draw the pole across the stream.
Some fine-tuning of placement with rock bars was needed to make sure the pole was correctly in place on both rock abutments. David and Jim performed this task with two additional members verifying the alignment. Once the alignment was correct, the pole was trimmed for an exact fit between the banks.
After lunch, the process was repeated for the second pole, creating the base of the bridge upon which the decking would sit. The deck lumber, provided by Stokes Park, was cut to length, and by the end of the day, the deck was in place. The walkway is four feet wide, and since the bridge is quite high above the stream, side railings were required. To support the railings, an eight-foot-long deck board was installed every three feet to support outriggers for the railing.
Back at the site the next afternoon, the crew tackled the remaining tasks: railings and graded bridge approaches. Hand and side rail supports were cut to size and affixed to the deck. The angled outrigger railing supports were fabricated and installed on the long planks. The hand railing was placed on top of the supports, and a side rail was placed halfway up to prevent falling if a hiker slips.
Since the bridge deck is slightly higher than the trail on both ends, rock and gravel ramps were built. Bigger rocks were placed level with the bridge deck and then filled in with smaller rocks and crushed rocks and topped with river gravel. And with that, the new bridge was completed.
If you’d like to join the West Jersey Crew for an outing, we are on the trails most Saturdays throughout the fall and spring seasons. No experience is necessary; the crew provides on-the-job training for volunteers at any skill level. Contact crew leaders Monica and David at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the crew’s schedule at bit.ly/TC-wjtc.