Looking east at Bamberg Bridge

Carol Miller

Bridges divide, bridges unite, bridges provide a shortcut: a hiker’s delight!

The Bamberg Creek Bridge, the newest and longest structure on the Avon Trail, has been completed during the wicked 35C temperatures of July and August, in just seven weeks!

Friends and members of the Trail fundraised to cover the building cost. Avon Trail volunteers provided the labour. The bridge site investigation began in the fall of 2018. Then, following consultation with all involved landowners, early in the fall of 2019, work on structural drawings started. In March 2020, an application for a permit, signed by landowners, was submitted along with detailed construction drawings to the Grand River Conservation Authority. In April 2020, the GRCA provided the necessary permission to build the bridge. 

July 4, 2020, eight stakes were driven into the ground to mark the pilings’ positions, four on either side of the creek. After months and months of planning by club member volunteers, it was happening. 

July 9, volunteers hauled two tons of stones to the site for the eventual backfilling of the post holes once the pilings were in place. Then, with schedules prepared, and extra help organized, the formidable task could begin.

To the passerby or the reader, a 28-foot long wooden bridge may not seem impressive. The two main laminated beams of the bridge were cut and assembled outside a shop northeast of Stratford before being transported to the site. Try carrying two 600 pound unwieldy beams through a newly cut trail in the woods, in extreme heat, swarmed by mosquitoes and deer flies, and you get a feeling for the immensity of the job. 

The bridge, designed by Trail member and retired theatre prop master Ted Derry, is a legacy bridge. It has been built on private land at an expense to the Avon Trail Association of $2,000 in materials. Much of the structure used repurposed materials from other bridges and stiles no longer in use, saving costs and reducing landfill impact. The labour was all-volunteer; even one of the landowners pitched in with the help of his tractor. The bridge execution – hoisting the massive beams over the creek, securing them to the posts and crossbeams – was done by a determined and robust team of 8-10 volunteers. In all, the team expended close to 300 hours on bridge construction alone, plus an additional 150 hours attributed to meetings, planning, and sourcing materials before construction even began. Cutting and blazing a new trail to the bridge site consumed an extra 41 hours.  And of course, our volunteer bridge designer added many hours to the bridge project not listed here.

The work team completed the bridge on August 22. It’s a beauty, built high above the creek to withstand spring flooding. Instead of 2.1 km of road walking from Sandhills Road, trail users will hike through mature hardwood forests to reach the next trail section east on Berlett’s Road. View a full tapestry of the bridge construction from start to finish HERE.

The club does not own any of the lands the Trail is on. However, member volunteers provide maintenance to the entire Trail – they build bridges, stiles, stairs, and keep the grass and brush trimmed, often a daunting task. They even pick up trash along the way. 

This writer sees this partnership as a demonstration of good faith by hikers and landowners. Continually having to do re-routes is part of this maintenance work. When the land changes ownership, often the Trail has to be re-routed. A volunteer updates the website RE-ROUTE section to make hikers aware of changes (since existing printed maps will need to be tweaked). Eventually, a revised version of the printed maps is released. The Trail phone app ONDAGO is also updated. 

During hot days of hiking, forest canopies are a real oasis. There are many forested areas only accessed by the use of the Trail. This walking trail is open to all who choose to use it while abiding by Avon Trail rules (stay on the Trail, all dogs on leashes and no use after dusk). This year, beginning in March, saw an unprecedented number of new and seasoned hikers on the Trail, many completing the trail end to end, requesting a coveted badge for their efforts. The Trail Facebook page follows many of these stories.

This was to be a 45th year celebration for the Trail, with many events and organized hikes scheduled. However, gatherings were cancelled and instead hiking became the activity of choice, outdoors in small groups. To many folks this has been an eye opener, an opportunity to experience the real joy of  hiking in the out of doors. All ages can hike; there are no restrictions.

The club hopes that folks will continue to take time to hike the Trail, all of it, or any part they fancy. Give it a try and be sure to find your way to the newest and longest structure, the Bamberg Creek Bridge.  

You will be glad you did!

Check the AvonTrail.ca for more information.