By Jody Houle
The Berlin Reporter
May 11, 2016
BERLIN — Volunteers from the White Mt. Ridge Runners (WMRR) snowmobile club and the Milan Trail Huggers ATV club spent the last five weeks rebuilding the trestle bridge in Dead River Park behind Valley Creek Eatery. Funding for this project was provided by a federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant that was obtained by the WMRR club.
Volunteers spent a total of 228 hours rebuilding the bridge and the budget for materials was just over $7,500.
“Everyone worked extremely hard, and our thanks go out to this group for a fantastic effort,” said Larry Gomes, Assistant Trail master for the White Mt. Ridge Runners snowmobile club and Trail Master for the Milan Trail Huggers ATV club.
“Several people walking over the bridge during the day stopped to thank the volunteers for their work so we know our efforts are going to be appreciated,” he said.
The bridge will be used in the winter by snowmobiles and in the spring, summer and fall -- by pedestrians and bicyclists. Itis located on land owned by the City of Berlin. Access is available on the north side of the bridge through the parking lot of Valley Creek Eatery. Access is also available on the south side of the bridge from a parking lot off of York Street.
The bridge has been used every winter for snowmobile traffic since 2007 and was also used for ATV traffic in the summer and fall from 2008 until 2013. The bridge is also part of a hiking trail from Dead River Park to Mt. Jasper and is used by foot traffic mainly in the non-winter months.
With the opening of all of the city streets in Berlin to ATV traffic, the trestle bridge is no longer needed as an ATV trail in the summer and fall months. This change has eliminated ATV traffic from Dead River Park and also from this bridge. As a result, the club expects that the bridge will get an increase in foot traffic in the summer and fall months. The club rebuilt the bridge entirely with pressure treated materials and built it strong enough to resist damage from snowmobiles and possible vandalism, said Gomes.
The trestle bridge on Primary Trail PT108 in downtown Berlin is 78 feet long and 10 feet wide. It was rebuilt with steel beams and hemlock decking in 2007 by members of the WMRR club. Because the majority of the bridge is in direct sunlight, the hemlock decking dried out and rotted before its expected 10-year useful life.
The bridge developed several holes in 2013 that were repaired with temporary patches by the WMRR snowmobile club in the fall of 2013. The club applied for GIA funds in 2014 to repair the bridge, but funding was not approved. During the summer of 2014, the bridge developed more holes and was deemed unsafe by the City of Berlin and blocked with cement barriers to keep wheeled vehicle and foot traffic from using it.
One of the goals of the project was to make the bridge a destination for people who want to sit and enjoy the river. Three alcoves were designed into the bridge, each with a 10-foot-long bench. Staining of the railings and benches was done to provide a nice contrast and to prevent the formation of mold.
In addition to a new deck, new railings and benches, the crew also installed rough-sawn lumber to hide the steel beams under the bridge which had old paint and rust on them and looked unsightly when approaching the bridge. The project area footprint for the trestle bridge was run through the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau data-check tool and no cultural or rare species impacts were identified. Gomes said that care was taken during construction to make sure no wood debris ends up in the river or anywhere around the bridge site. The club was prepared with waders, rope, rakes, etc. to insure that any debris that may inadvertently drop into the river will be immediately removed.
As part of the project, the club cleaned up any trash in and around the bridge site and disposed of it properly. All of the old lumber removed from the bridge was brought to the local recycling center to be ground up into wood chips. “It was great to see the final design that was sketched out over two years ago finally come to life,” said Gomes.