The "Big Bridge"
If you happen to walk or bike along Lake Mendocino, you may notice the 60-foot bridge that we have been working on (we just call it the "Big Bridge").
The final stages of placing the bridge was reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising. A group of volunteers, with nothing but shared effort and mechanical advantage, picked up a 5,000-pound bridge, hoisted it across a 60-foot ravine and lowered it safely into place. Over two year’s planning and fund-raising in a joint effort between the Army Corps of Engineers, the Ukiah Valley Trail Group (UVTG) and Ruzicka Associates culminated in the installation of a trail bridge that will benefit trail users for decades to come.
The project was initiated in October of 2006 when Lake Mendocino’s Ranger Greg Cox applied for a grant to improve trails at the Lake. The federal “Handshake” grant required the local Army Corps Office to demonstrate a working relationship and financial match from a community group. Having provided over 1000 hours of volunteer labor in the previous two years, the UVTG easily fit the bill.
In May of 2007 the grant was awarded and the real work began. Ranger Brian Emmons took the lead for the Army Corps and coordinated with the UVTG to research bridge materials and designs, pursue the necessary environmental reviews, and build the approaches to the bridge site. The UVTG raised over $23,000 to cover their share of the expense. A final pivotal piece of the planning puzzle fell into place when Tom Hunt of Ruzicka Associates offered the pro bono services of the firm to assist with the bridge abutments.
The location and a desire to minimize any construction impacts led the groups to decide on fiberglass as the material of choice. The fiberglass bridge was delivered to Lake Mendocino in pieces, like an erector set. The pieces were then hand carried from the closest road to the site where they were bolted together. Over thirty volunteers contributed to the bridge building effort and the entire bridge, including the abutments, was assembled and placed in four days.