Airborne delivery makes Spirit Lake Bridge possible

A helicopter pilot and quick-footed ground crew made short work of building a new cedar bridge by Spirit Lake last month.

A helicopter pilot and quick-footed ground crew made short work of building a new cedar bridge by Spirit Lake last month.

“It was pretty exciting,” says Larry Duke, a local engineering and recreation officer with B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

Local helicopter pilot Andrew Scott was “amazing,” said Duke.

Scott flew several bags of rock and gravel to their targets a pair of four-by-six-foot cedar cribs that were hand-dug to make the bridge footings.

“The long line he’s slinging is 125 feet long,” said Duke. “To be placing these components right on the mark is always tricky.”

It was a close call, but the helicopter also lifted the two 40-foot cedar beams that now span the creek at the east end of Spirit Lake.

Each weighs about 1,800 lbs, and the whole project was delayed for months so the heavier one could dry out just enough to get airborne.

“It was down to pounds,” said Duke. There were high-fives when the ground crew heard it was in the air.

Locally sourced and constructed, the new bridge cost Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. around $14,000 and is expected to last at least 50 or 60 years.

“It’s all beautiful wood that the Skidegate band donated to the project,” said Duke.

“If someone looks closely they might appreciate that the railings and railing caps are all single-piece, two by eight, 40-foot long cedar.”

Given that a helicopter can cost about $2,000 an hour to run, it may come as a surprise that it was actually the less costly, as well as less intrusive way to build the bridge, said Duke.

The team looked at bringing all the materials up using ATVs, but found the beams were too heavy and too long to round some of the tight corners on the popular Spirit Lake trail without logging nearby trees.

“It’s less wear-and-tear on the trail, it’s done instantly, and at the end of the day, it is the cheapest solution,” said Duke.

All the cedar used to make the new bridge was milled by Tim Fennell’s Eaglecrest Enterprises in Port Clements.

Working quickly on the ground to keep the helicopter on schedule were James Nickerson, Leandre Vigneault, Roland Denooij, Darrell Oike, Caylin Clements, and Percy Crosby.