Over several winter days, a dedicated work crew gathered at Traverse City’s Brown Bridge Quiet Area to create something special for all of us. Volunteers and staff members of the Grand Traverse Conservation District placed a steel-truss footbridge across the Boardman River.
Of course, it wasn’t that simple … or that easy.
The whole project began when local land owner and conservationist, Richard Becker donated a 2,100 pound, 55-foot long steel truss to Traverse City and the Conservation District. The bridge was just the right size to cross a narrow section of the Boardman River, connecting trails on the north and south sides. In fact, the bridge would be located where an old Boy Scout bridge had stood before being washed away in the 1970s.
Project Manager, Steve Largent says they had hoped to get help from the National Guard in moving the bridge with a helicopter. Unfortunately, other priorities got in the way and the National Guard was unable to help. So, the Conservation District called in some very tenacious and talented volunteers to create a “Plan B.”
With many years of experience in the tree-service business, Richard Becker offered to help create a steel-cable system connected to large trees on either side of the valley. Then, the steel-truss could be connected to the cable and slipped down into the valley and onto support piers.
Another volunteer, Alan Strange joined the effort, contributing lots of experience using winches and solving engineering problems. And in February, as the snow fell, Plan B was put into action.
Other volunteers enlisted in the effort and joined Conservation District staff in weaving the massive steel structure through the woods to the south bluff overlooking the river valley. Winched up to pulleys on the steel cable spanning 660 feet across the river valley, the crew pushed the bridge along the cable and down into the valley.
As shown in the video, there were plenty of challenges along the way as the cable sagged and the bridge hit the ground. However, this work crew as not deterred. Success came with the help of additional winches, supports and a lot of muscle.
Project Manager, Steve Largent says this bridge will provide better the public access to the natural resources and an opportunity to experience the magic of Brown Bridge. Visitors will also learn how dam removal and restoration efforts are improving aquatic habitat along the Boardman River.