Petroglyphs

Magic touches, Nisenan tributes mark new suspension bridge in Nevada County
by Keri Brenner
25 September 2014
Photos by John Hart
The Union Newspaper

A new 150-foot suspension bridge hanging above Deer Creek on the Tribute Trail in Nevada City is almost complete. Standing on the bridge, from right, are: Amber Taxiera, The Sierra Fund; Ori Chafe, Sierra Streams Institute; Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, The Sierra Fund; Zachi Anerson, Forest Trails Alliance; and Julie Fair, American Rivers.

In what could be Nevada County’s most spectacular and moving testament to people’s love of the land and its natural beauty, a new 150-foot suspension bridge hanging four stories above Deer Creek in Nevada City is almost complete.

“This is the best example yet of a collaborative tribute to the original Nisenan people, using the best available technology, and done in concert with local, state, federal and community partners,” said Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund, fiscal sponsors of the project. “This so knocked our socks off by how beautiful this is.”

Martin and other principals in the project are organizing the bridge’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, tentatively set for 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28th, 2014.

Many state and local officials, including California’s Secretary for Resources John Laird and state Assemblyman Brian Dahle, are expected to attend.

Martin, who has been visiting the bridge site weekly since construction started in January, found design and construction and detail work at the bridge was “more complex and beautiful than anyone could believe,” she said Wednesday at a gathering with her staff and representatives from partner agencies.

As Martin talked, three workers from Forest Trails Alliance, who designed and built the striking masonry abutments on either side of the bridge, and who designed and built an elaborate stone-encrusted half-mile access trail leading to the bridge, prepared to pour a concrete cap on top of the abutment.

The cap will encase a carved stone recess that frames a Nisenan petroglyph contributed by the Foothills Nisenan Nevada City Rancheria.

The Rancheria has also contributed indigenous native plants to replace the invasive species cleared by another partner group, American Rivers, which also cleared excess fuel to make the area more fire-safe.

“You couldn’t even see the creek a year ago,” said Julie Fair of American Rivers.

A new 150-foot suspension bridge hanging above Deer Creek on the Tribute Trail in Nevada City is almost complete.

Near the petroglyph and on either side of the bridge are curved, blue-dyed concrete “waves,” designed to add an enchantment worthy of the striking downtowns of Grass Valley and Nevada City or the epic natural and historic sites that populate this area, said Zachi Anderson of Forest Trails Alliance.

“Our vision is that we’re trying to bring to the conversation not only how critical a non-motorized, pedestrian trail is to everyone’s vitality and health, but also to reflect the cool character we have in the rest of Nevada County,” Anderson said. “We’re using basalt stone quarried locally from Hanson Brothers and local sand.”

According to Amber Taxiera of The Sierra Fund, the volunteer contributions by Forest Trails Alliance and other community partners have far exceeded the $1.3 million allotted for the project through the California Resources Agency River Parkways Program at the end of 2012.

“We want people to know that the cost is so much more than that (grant),” Taxiera said. “We’re working with them to help set up an online crowd-sourcing fundraising site.”

To contact FTA to offer help with fundraising, visit the Forest Trails Alliance website, www.foresttrailsalliance.wix.com.

Aside from the beauty of the bridge and its surroundings, Ori Chafe of Sierra Streams said the new span, designed by local engineers Holdrege & Kull, and built by Seattle Bridge Co. under contract with Sierra Fund, will provide an important connector between the north and south sides of the bridge.

“Now you’ll be able to do a huge loop,” she said, referring to the connection from Champion Mine Road along the existing Tribute Trail to the Environs trail, which stretches on the other side of the bridge to Zion Street via Providence Mine Road.

The bridge itself is built to be “dynamic” in order to be flexible, Anderson said. That means it sways, wobbles and bounces a little.

“It’s a dynamic structure that responds to energetic forces such as people walking on it and wind,” he said.

Yet another striking feature at the site built by Forest Trails Alliance is their transformation of a massive Nevada Irrigation District pipe into a fake tree trunk along the Suspension Bridge Trail. Anderson said he worked closely with NID officials on the pipe, which would have destroyed the magical quality of the trail if left bare.

Seattle Bridge Co. finished construction and testing the span last week, Anderson said. Still needed are the final permits and inspection, Martin said.

Volunteers from Forest Trails Alliance work on striking masonry abutments on either side of the bridge, which are highlighted by a curved concrete “waves.”

Even without final clearance, some curious residents and trail regulars have been stopping by to observe.

“I’ve been hiking there two times a week since the 1980s,” said Dave Clark of Grass Valley. “That’s before there even was a Tribute Trail.”

Bear Yuba Land Trust has the most current information and maps of the trail at their website. Trail maps will soon be updated to reflect the new construction, officials said.

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.