SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST – Those who hike along the Lewis Creek Trail have likely been surprised and a bit saddened to see that the bridge nearest the parking lot north of Cedar Valley on Highway 41 is gone.
A call to Steven Beri, National Resources Specialist and Trail Supervisor for the Sierra National Forest, shed some light on why the bridge was removed. (photo of the bridge in 2006)
“It was taken down because of safety concerns,” explains Beri. “The bridge was an old tree that fell down, and was conveniently shaped and turned into a bridge. It was a very large tree and suitable for a bridge for quite a few years. We understand that there was a lot of nostalgia and a lot of people liked that bridge.”
But trees do rot, and the beloved old bridge was starting to crack and creak, and vegetation was growing all over it, making it slick and causing an overall safety concern for the Forest Service.
After several trail crews went out and documented the cracks and structural damage, it was determined that the the integrity of the bridge was compromised and that it was not structurally sound. With approval from the District Ranger, it was removed last summer.
Crews laid out tarps to protect the watershed from debris and sawdust, then used chain saws to cut rounds, and piece by piece the old bridge was taken apart, and the rounds were rolled out into the surrounding areas.
Large boulders have been strategically aligned for a rather natural crossing of Lewis Creek, and Beri says the public has also contributed to this process in the ensuing months. He also says the Forest Service wants to do something more permanent, but at this time they don’t have a specific timetable or proposal, and have forest priorities that may keep this on the back burner for a while.
“We want to give back to the public and have something more substantial for crossing there,” says Beri, but for now, folks will have to cross the old-fashioned way – on the boulders in the creek.