Trail Improvements at Weeks Woods in Gilford
After a recent timber harvest at Weeks Woods in Gilford, volunteers and staff teamed-up to build two new hiking trail bridges and to seed-down portions of skid trails with rye grass seed as part of putting the timber sale to bed and improving the hiking trail network. The hiking trails had been closed for three weeks during the planned timber harvest.
The new bridges enhance two small wetland crossings and replace two former "perched" culvert pipes. The new bridges are designed to raise the trail treadway and to allow for seasonal high water flow, improved wetland wildlife travel particularly passage for aquatic invertebrates to facilitate connectivity for a range of wetland ecological functions.
Ever wonder what it takes to build a hiking trail bridge?
The first order of business is measuring and designing the span, ordering supplies, organizing volunteers and hauling materials to the site. Once on-site at Weeks Woods entrance road, we transported lumber, tools and other building supplies up the main haul road and past the central timber landing to each of two different job sites.
Each side of the bridge rests on a large 8x8 sill set into the berm and anchored with rebar. Two 16' long pressure treated stringers are aligned and squared across the gap and anchored to the sills with timber lock screws using a portable electric drill kit.
Once the stringers are set square, a rubberized adhesive weather proofing seal is affixed to the stringers and then the decking is laid out and checked for consistent spacing before being nailed in place using large galvanized nails. Side rails are added above blocks which allow water to drain off the deck on each side. The side rails also help keep hiking and cross-country ski and snowshoe traffic safely in the center of the span.
Lastly, the ends of each bridge are capped and the approach is levelled smooth so the berms naturally feed traffic to the bridge ends from either direction. We also spent some time seeding down portions of the trail and spreading mulch hay to allow the seed to germinate.
The hiking trail loop at Weeks Woods in Gilford was established on timber harvest roads last used in 1989 and 1990. These roads were re-used and trails were closed during the August 2016 scheduled timber harvest. After the harvest, the roads were re-graded and crowned to keep water off to the sides and are now being re-seeded and opened once more to non-motorized, recreational use including hunting, hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
In that sense, the improvements are a bridge to a bright future of continued recreational use of a popular Forest Society Forest Reservation which is also a productive forest management and wildlife mananagement area.
Want to learn more or visit to see firsthand? Sign up for the Tour on Saturday October 22 from 9 am to Noon.