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AmeriCorps*NCCC Builds a Bridge in 37 Days at Alvin C. York Birthplace and Museum

During the period between June 14 and July 20, 2000, a team of twelve AmeriCorps *NCCC members constructed a swinging bridge at the Alvin C. York State Historic Site. With a span of 126 1/2 feet, at a height of 15 feet above the water and with a total length of over 175 feet, the bridge is an important link in the trail system that is being created at the York site. Built with the help of a grant from the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, the bridge allows park visitors to walk from the York home, General Store and Gristmill to York's burial site and the York Bible School, while also permitting them to experience the scenic beauty of the Wolf River.

AmeriCorps**NCCC, the National Civilian Community Corps, is a 10-month residential national service program for 18-24 year old women and men of all social, economic and educational backgrounds. The program takes its inspiration from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which puts thousands of young people to work restoring our natural environment. AmeriCorps**NCCC retains the CCC's focus on the environment, but also services the areas of public safety, human needs, education and disaster relief. Blue 5, the NCCC team that built the bridge, was composed of hard-working, dedicated members from across the country: Kate Allender from Kent, Ohio; Kerrin Attig from Carbondale, Illinois; Steve Bennett from St. Paul, Minnesota; Celina Boer from Louisville, Kentucky; Katherine Bradley from LaGrange, Georgia; Shelley Esposito from Boston, Massachusetts; Brian Gaze from Redlands, California; Caroline Kunitake from Honolulu, Hawaii; Kathriona Langan from Winstead, Connecticut; Leigh Ready from Irvine, California; Lorraine Stewart from Houston, Texas; and Andy Thomas from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

 

Although the steel support frames for the structure were welded by a local welder, all of the other work was performed by the team. A site was selected which would require a minimal amount of clearing, allowing the person crossing the bridge to literally walk among the treetops. The team then used shovels to dig holes on each bank that were 6 feet by 6 feet deep. A continual challenge in logistics, the project required that supplies and workers be continually ferried back and forth across the river using a flat-bottomed boat. Additionally, a steeply sloping bank prevented the cement truck from reaching one side of the bridge. The team overcame this obstacle by constructing a lengthy chute cut of roofing tin that channeled the concrete from the top of the bank into the abutment holes. While waiting for the concrete to set the team worked at the maintenance area at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park to construct the wooden sections of the bridge. Once the concrete had reached its maximum strength the team used an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys to string the heavy one-inch cable, which has a nominal strength of 40.4 tons, across the river. Wearing harnesses that were clipped into a safety rope and working from both sides towards the middle, the team put the wooden sections into place until they met in the middle. During their last week the team worked vigorously to complete the bridge before their departure, arriving at the site before 6 am each morning. As darkness approached on their last night at the York site, the team completed the finishing touches and then lingered on the bridge as the sun set and celebrated their accomplishment.

The team also constructed over 2 miles of trails while at the York site. Overshadowed by the Yellow Doors and the towering cliffs of the Cumberland Plateau, the bridge and the trails provide the park visitor with an almost unparalleled opportunity to view the remarkable beauty and abundant wildlife along the Wolf River. The river and its banks team with mink, beaver, muskrat, trout, bass, turtles, ducks, rabbits and deer. The trails pass through extensive stands of river cane, through deep hardwood forests and through seas of pink, purple and yellow during the spring and fall when the wildflowers are in bloom. Future trails will take visitors onto the mountain behind the recently opened York General Store, allowing them to enjoy interesting rock formations and scenic overlooks of the Wolf River Valley. Ultimately, the entire trail system at the York site will be linked via the John Muir Trail to the trails systems of Pickett CCC Memorial State Park, Big South Fork and beyond, giving added significance to the work accomplished by Blue 5.


Sgt. York Burial Site

Methodist Church across from Cemetary

For information about the York site, call 931-879-6456. For information about becoming an AmeriCorps *NCCC member, call 800-942-2677. To find out how an AmeriCorps *NCCC team can help service your needs in the Southeast region, call 843-743-8600. For information about the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, call 615-386-3171.

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