Volunteers, Through Mud and Cold, Help Southeast Land Trust Build Snowmobile/Pedestrian Bridge
How many people does it take to carry a 20-foot long pressure treated, nearly 200-pound pine pole 200 feet across uneven, soft, wet, muddy ground? The answer: 6 to 8 enthusiastic and hardy volunteers.
Seventeen volunteers turned out this week to help the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire (SELTNH)build a 220-foot long snowmobile/pedestrian bridge across a forested wetland on the Land Trust’s 589-acre Tucker-French Family Forest in Kingston and Danville. Together the volunteers carried 36 heavy poles (varying in length from 12 feet to 20 feet) from a staging area to the wetland crossing.
This new bridge is just one of many trail projects underway on the Tucker-French Family Forest. Thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Trails Bureau, the Southeast Land Trust is improving or adding 5 miles of trails for hiking, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Snowmobilers can also traverse three of those trail miles, including the new bridge. Four members--Chuck, Dylan, Peter, and Stan--of the Southern NH Trailblazers snowmobile club were on hand too, to help lay the foundation (the poles) for the bridge decking. Dylan Chenevert, who operates a Tree Service, used his chain saw to clear one last tree from the trail corridor.
All the volunteer labor this week is match for the Trails Bureau grant that pays for materials and machines. But the people who volunteered this week were more than just a match for a grant. Phil Auger, the Land Trust’s Property Manager and organizer of the trail project, said, “The Southeast Land Trust and the contractor simply couldn't have done this project without volunteers and on Wednesday we needed a lot of them. It was truly inspiring to take part in what most people would consider an awful task, with a group of people who tackled it head on and kept smiling and joking all day long despite cold, wet, muddy conditions.”
Volunteer Ernie Landry from Kingston and a neighbor to the Forest, added, “We have a group of six guys in our 60s who help with trail projects in Kingston. We have so much fun.” Most of them helped carry poles this week, some all day long with wet feet and in near freezing temperatures.
Phil awarded volunteer Peter Coffin of Kingston first prize for most mud covered. In recognizing Peter, Phil said, “He cheated a bit by wearing old white corduroy pants and taking that nose dive with the pole on his shoulder when we got started, but his energy and smile never waned.” The Kingston volunteer trail crew obviously has a lot of fun.
Rob Wofchick and Heather Gilbert from nearby Brentwood volunteered too. “We are always looking for new places to explore close to home. It is important to protect and improve the special places in our communities and we appreciate The Stewardship Network: New England connecting us to what is happening in our area. We had fun, met new people, got a little muddy, and helped improve a great new trail network.”
In addition to carrying the poles, volunteers dragged heavy, hard plastic mats loaned from Unitil in front of a “multi terrain rubber track skidsteer” with a mechanism on the front to pound in the poles, which will serve as footings for the bridge deck. The mats were needed to prevent the tracked vehicle from sinking into the mud.