Foot bridge along Greenway Trail restored

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Pictured are the workers who rebuilt the Greenway Trail bridge at the Cassville Aquatic Park. The trail was popular with residents, but has been interrupted since July 2015, when flooding damaged the bridge beyond repair. The crew rebuilt the bridge in one week and made several improvements, including a level walking surface, safety rails and a tapered edge railing. From left: Ryan Lynxwiler, Cassville public works maintenance; Travis Hilburn; Shane Anderson, with FEMA; Ken Latschar, public works maintenance; Erik Williams, with FEMA; and Jeff Luney, with FEMA. Brian Madison, also with the city, was not present. The bridge will soon be named after Hilburn's grandfather, William Harvey Hilburn, who was a Barry County native, CCC worker and WWII veteran. Julia Kilmer

Hilburn heads project with city, FEMA workers

A bridge that allowed passage over Flat Creek along the popular Greenway Trail near the Cassville Aquatic Park was recently rebuilt by volunteers and city workers, nearly eight months after being destroyed by flooding in July 2015.

According to Steve Walensky, Cassville public works director, no action could be taken to address the damaged bridge, along with many other areas in the parks which had been damaged, until funding was received from FEMA, which did not arrive until December 2015, when another flood hit. The bridge cost about $10,000.

Travis Hilburn shows how wide the rails should be on the new bridge he and about six others rebuilt in just one week on the Greenway Trail inside the Cassville Aquatic Park. The original bridge was destroyed in floods in July 2015. If railings are wider than an adult hand, or about four inches, a child or infant could slip through, Hilburn said. He, the city workers and temporary FEMA workers hired with FEMA funding rebuilt the bridge for residents, and made several improvements. Julia Kilmer

Walensky was able to be obtain help through the Workforce Investment Board, a program through the Division of Labor, to help with repair and cleanup projects.

"Once we got that funding, we were able to secure the materials we needed, and we were able to fund the Workforce Investment folks," he said. "As soon as the floods hit, I applied to the state for three full-time workers for six months. It's a nice bonus for the parks department. It took a lot of burden off the city because they are helping with all aspects of making repairs and returning the park back to normal."

Last summer, Travis Hilburn offered his time and construction skills to the city at no charge to rebuild the bridge along the popular trail that he had used a lot himself in the past. He expected he would have to build the bridge mostly by himself, and was ready to take on the project, but the city was able to supply him with help.

"He had come to me shortly after the bridge was damaged and offered to bring some volunteers to the table," Walensky said. "He's got the talent and skill to do the project from an engineering standpoint. Travis was guiding them all, they were doing the support work and were really the labor behind all this."

The group of seven completed the project within a week and not only rebuilt the structure, but improved upon the original one.

"It's not a one-man job," Hilburn said. "Without them, I couldn't have done this. All I did was bring a little engineering to the job. We started on a Wednesday and ended on a Wednesday. I did have a small group of volunteers come on that Saturday to help. We went off the basic design, but made a few improvements."

First, they made the bridge safer for small children by making the railing closer together.

"The rails need to be less than four inches, basically, the width of my hand, to keep children and babies from slipping through them," Hilburn said.

They also made the top of hand rails tapered, to serve as a safety feature and buffer.

"If people were to fall over sideways and hit the rails, such as falling off their bikea tapered rail allows for a softer hit," Hilburn said. "A tapered also edge makes a smoother edge. You're looking at keeping them inside the railing this way, and it's less damage to the body if they hit it."

Another improvement was making the walking surface even. As Hilburn described, because the boards had not been planed down on the previous bridge, when a baby stroller went across, it would get stuck in the uneven areas and would have to be picked up.

Hilburn said he put in extra time to customize the boards so that the new bridge would have a level, even surface and eliminate that problem.

"We spent quite a bit of time on that," he said.

The workers also widened the bridge, adding about 10-12 inches, so that two bicycles can easily cross side by side. The new bridge is 72 inches wide and 60 feet long.

Hilburn also asked the city if he could name the bridge after his grandfather, William Harvey Hilburn, a Barry County native, CCC and WPA worker and World War II veteran.

The city unanimously approved the request, so a plaque will be placed at the foot of the bridge in the near future in honor of his grandfather.

A few finishing touches, including a good power wash and water treatment to protect the bridge, will also be done.

Walensky said he was pleased with the quality of the completed project, and the people who made it happen.

"I couldn't be happier," he said. "When you put that many more people on board, it makes it a lot easier on our staff trying to accomplish the restoration projects we've got going on. I was so thrilled to get the funding for Cassville. And that's the role I've been trying to play so we can restore all of the park back to pre-flood condition.

The workers have been helping with the Greenway Trail cleanup, tree removal, branches, fence installations and other tasks. They're assisting with all those elements."

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