Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nearing the Finish Line...

More than six months in the making, the Historic Fieldale Iron Bridge Preservation Project is almost complete! As of today the most labor intensive process of the project, lead abatement, has been completed. We are now watching the weather and waiting to mount the trusses at their new location along the Fieldale Trail.

A lot of activity has gone on during the past several months. After seeking quotes from service providers in June our committee determined that the project would cost approximately $12,000. Thanks to support from history buffs and Fieldale fans like you, more than $12,600 was raised through the sale of memorial plaques! Many businesses and community partners have contributed to the project by donating services or providing them at reduced costs. These donations have exceeded the project cash outlay by more than 120%!

During Thanksgiving Week, staff from Boxley Materials of Fieldale poured and formed concrete footers to mount the trusses to. The footers were designed by Rayford Smith, a structural engineer from Martinsville. The quick work of Boxley's qualified staff allowed them to complete this portion of the project prior to Huricaine Ida coming into town. During the storm, the waters rose in the Smith River and Jordan Creek began coming out of its banks but the bridge site remained dry!

Since then, staff from Dishman Environmental of Danville have been busily working on removing 71-years worth of paint from the structure. This firm was chosen for the job because of their enviromentally friendly removal methods that produce no dust. As each section of truss was cleaned, crews from Reliable Welding of Bassett moved in to weld and modify the trusses.  The entire time that this work has been going on, Northpoint Trading, an import/export firm located at the former Fieldcrest Mill, has been our gracious host allowing the trusses to be stored on their property. 
In early December, I finally got the call that I had been waiting on...the crews were ready to flip the trusses! Hall's Mechanical Services of Fieldale brought in a crane and rigged up each truss to it so that they could be turned over, allowing the workers to clean/modify the opposite side. In addition to the welding, Reliable has also been preparing small keepsake pieces of the bridge for donors who purchased plaques at the $250 level. (If you purchased one of these plaques, your keepsake will arrive via mail in 1-2 weeks.)

Now that the end of December is upon us, the cleaning and welding is complete. Yay! Now what? We wait...and wonder...will it snow again this weekend?  This uncertainty in the weather (and 12" of snow)caused us to miss our first deadline of having the trusses installed by Christmas.

I am by no means an expert in construction and have learned so much during this process, thanks to the friendly contractors who have taken the time to educate me as they worked. One lesson that I have learned is that cranes are incredibly heavy and soil conditions have to be just right before setting them up to work. Corky Hall, owner of Hall's Mechanical, is presently checking the site each day to evaluate the conditions. We either need a day where the sun has dried up the soil well from all the rain/snow/ice or we need a day when the ground is frozen solid. Which ever day comes first- we'll be ready!

Watch for the action to happen soon as Hall's Mechanical loads the trusses onto a tractor trailer provided by Craddock Logging Supply and Repair of Ridgeway. Staff from the Virginia Department of Transportation will provide a safety escort for the oversize load and Reliable Welding will secure the trusses to their new foundation along the Fieldale Trail.  After that monumentous day, touch up painting of the truss will be performed by Stefan Moore, a painter from Myrtle Beach with Fieldale roots and a love for the Iron Bridge. (I've got to give a shout out to the staff at Martinsville's Sherwin Williams store who have been incredibly helpful in suggesting paint products that are both durable and environmentally friendly.)

Frith Construction will then roll out gravel along Phase III of the Fieldale Trail. Plaques, printed by Martinsville Engraving, will be mounted to the trusses and landscaping that serves as a rain garden will be added to the site by Prillaman Landscape Dimensions of Ridgeway. A comfortable bench and educational signage will top it all off.

Once these details are complete a dedication ceremoney will be held at the site to honor all who have participated in the project and to remember Bobby Craddock, a generous sponsor who passed away prior to the project being completed.

We're almost to the finish line! Soon visitors to Fieldale will be able to stop by the Fieldale Trail and Iron Bridge to learn about the rich heritage of this community while enjoying the recreational opportunites provided there.  Residents will be able to take their children and grandchildren to the site to share stories and tidbits of nostalgia. Much history has been centered around the old iron bridge- from the big dance in 1932 and the great flood of 1937 to the inventive decorations displayed by Halloween pumpkin thieves back in the day (we know who you are!) and the more recent Christmas lights provided by the Fieldale Heritage Committe. Thanks to the support of all the project sponsors, these amazing stories will continue to live on.

Special thanks to all the sponsors, Henry County, and the Iron Bridge Committee members. Your support, guidance, and advice throughout this project have been tremendous!
-Jennifer Doss, Rivers & Trails Project Manager
(soon to be Volunteer Iron Bridge Coordinator)

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