We work hard every year to keep mother nature at bay so we can continue to enjoy valuable time spent out on the trail. Clipping down newly sprouted hobble bush stems, taking down the low, overhanging branches of American beech, and removing all shapes and sizes of deadfall remain the persistent tasks trail workers can count on. Sometimes, though, our projects become more involved – rerouting trail sections, working to solve problems associated with poor drainage, figuring out how to best handle potentially dangerous spots, or doing some major reconstruction.
Anyone who has skied section 28 (Craftsbury Outdoor Center to Lowell Village) in recent years will likely recall crossing Rodger’s Brook on a 50 ft steel frame bridge. With a noticeable sideways lean, a thin rope railing that gave the appearance of safety while offering very little, and decking that turned into a slip and slide with even a hint of humidity in the air, all types of recreational users on the trail played a game of “chicken” with the bridge troll whenever crossing Rodger’s Brook.
In the interest of improving bridge safety for the skiers and motorized trail users alike, the CTA set about plans for some major bridge renovations this summer. We tapped into the trail construction expertise of Josh Ryan, owner of Timber and Stone, LLC, to determine how to best go about improving the functionality of the bridge. Plans were put into place on a chilly weekend in late October with Josh leading enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers from Craftsbury, Burlington, Montpelier, and Massachusetts.
I was part of the Friday work crew, and was able to reach a zen-like state by the end of the day by taking out some major aggression during the demolition process. Early in the morning Josh guided us through his vision then set us free with sledges, crowbars, and anything helpful in tearing apart wooden structures. Over the course of the day we took down railings, replaced decking, and put up new railing uprights. It was impressive to see how much the bridge had changed, and daunting to think of how much more still had to be done the following day.
The Saturday crew took to the task of building everything back up with ardor. By the end of the day the bridge looked newly minted – new railings, complemented with metal safety fencing, decking runner boards to reduce the likelihood of slipping, and a nearly level surface that doesn’t tip precariously to the side. The troll has moved out, seeking residence under some other dilapidated bridge, leaving skiers to cross Rodger’s Brook in peace. Our hope is that by making a wider structure that is accessible to all types of trail users the bridge will be safe for many years of use. Thanks to Josh Ryan and Gordon Adams of Timber and Stone, LLC and the volunteer crews that worked hard to put a fresh face on section 28 of the Catamount Trail.