Work Days: Friday the 13th, a bridge demolished, and a new one built the next day!

The completed 20-foot span on the Bill Ballard Trail

It had to go. The old bridge on the Ballard Trail was so punky from rot that it sagged under its own weight. It was unlikely to withstand the snow load of the upcoming winter. It bounced, when one crossed it. It wiggled, when one sashayed on it. So, what better day to dismantle a bridge than Friday the 13th of November?

This sagging bridge carried its last customer on Friday, November 13, 2020.

That fated Friday, four volunteers set to work demolishing the old hemlock bridge. The length-wise cleats on either side pealed right off with the mere threat of a crow bar. The decking took little more than a flick of a hammer from below to go flipping over. The stringers, protected as they were by tar paper, were rotten nonetheless. A Sawzall made short work of cutting them into sections. All the old wood was carried into the woods to rot out of view from the trail. The tarpaper, rebars and nails were carried out. The foundations comprised logs and 6x6s with rebars through them into the soil. They were much more resistant to demolition.

While the demolition was underway, six additional volunteers did the hard part—carry the materials into the site southbound from the new Charles Brown Schoolhouse Bridge that had been laid out on the weekend before by other volunteers. Jim Faughnan, the leader and planner of the project, pre-cut and drilled the ground-contact grade, pressure-treated lumber and specified the necessary fasteners. The materials list included five twenty-foot long 2×10 stringers, forty 42-inch 2×6 deck planks, three 42-inch 6×6 foundation cribbing blocks, plus fasteners and rebars for anchoring the bridge foundation. The preparatory work was finished in about three hours with all the hands available.

On Saturday, the 14th of November, a crew of four returned to the site to clear out the remaining foundation elements, which included firmly anchored rebar, and to build the new span. Three new 6×6 cribbing blocks were laid as foundations for the new bridge, pinned into the soil with rebar. After that, progress was quick. The central stringer with blocking became the backbone of the span with blocking reaching out on either side, flanked by the soon-to-be doubled up outer stringers—five in all.

With the stringers in place, the crew installed a self-adhering, water-proof urethane membrane over them. Using a shim for constant spacing, the crew laid out two pre-drilled decking planks per foot of span. They finished off the structure with a pair of cleats on either side, completing their work in four hours.

What the well-dressed trail crew member wears, these days!

As they completed their work, Customer #1 came by with his dog and registered his approval!

The lucky Friday-the-13th crew comprised:

  • Jim Faughnan (work leader)
  • Bob Fisken
  • Stephen Flanders
  • Roger Maynard
  • John McCormick
  • Sean Ogle
  • Jane Phipps
  • Cathie Redpath
  • Jane Zuckerman

The Saturday crew comprised:

  • Jim Faughnan (work leader)
  • Stephen Flanders
  • Nick Krembs
  • Cody Williams

We thank the Norwich Women’s Club and the Norwich Conservation Commission for funding the materials used in replacing this bridge.

Story and photos by Stephen Flanders

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