Northbound I-5, north of Highway 165, down to 1 lane due to an overturned big rig


A Blackhawk Helicopter Helps Complete Bridge At Millerton Lake

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Mountain bikers and equestrians in both Madera and Fresno counties are one step closer to having a new and improved trail.

The Big Sandy Bridge got washed out in 1995. This weekend the California National Guard is putting the finishing touches on the new bridge to connect Millerton Lake and Kerckhoff Reservoir.

It was a dramatic weekend chore for the Army National Guard. A Blackhawk helicopter lifted the final section of the new Big Sandy Creek Bridge into place. The aluminum span is made up of three pieces, each weighing 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.

Steve Haze, President San Joaquin River Trail Council, says "this is a real critical day& get that first section in place, then hopefully based on the outcome of that, the other 2 should drop into place tomorrow."

The bridge will connect Millerton State recreation area to the San Joaquin River Gorge, creating an 18 mile trail for mountain bikers and horse riders year round. Mark Holland, project manager, says "it means we have uninterrupted access to one of the premier trails in our area."

Mark Van Dyke donated thousands of dollars in equipment and money to finish a trail he hopes to mountain bike on, and one that has been 11 years in the making. Holland says "my son was 8 years old when we started the project. He's now 19, graduated high school and is in college now."

Building the foundation for the bridge was its own difficult task. Volunteers used a caravan of mules to bring the materials in to the steep and rugged location. And the work paid off, literally. The 4,000 volunteer hours saved 2/3 of what the project was going to cost.

"The total cost would have been 1/3 of a million dollars, as a result, this will be a little over $100,000" says Haze. It's a labor of love for this group of environmentalists, cyclists, and horsemen.

Bikers and equestrians can start using the trail as soon as the end of the day Sunday.

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