JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Visitors to Jacob’s Nature Park at Sinking Creek are about to have a much more convenient, safer way to make loop hikes around the 28-acre mix of wetland and wooded ridges.
Volunteers from the Holston Valley Regional Conservation Committee have been busy the past couple months constructing a high-quality bridge over the creek at the southwest (downstream) end of the park.
The span, not far from the Ocala Drive parking area and outdoor classroom, will replace a makeshift pair of tree trunks that spanned the stream for the last several years and were the only way for visitors to connect the two ends of the park without backtracking.
Greg Kramer and Dan Firth were leading a small group of volunteers Sunday afternoon, a week after a larger crew managed to get several half-ton logs across the abutments and into place.
“To be able to come down here and cross the bridge, continue along Sinking Creek and then come back up to where you have the bridge on the (King Springs Road) side and come back around the high side, it just gives you a much better appreciation for all the variety of nature that’s here,” Kramer said.
The park has been a big draw for Megan and Forrest Wester and their two children, Ronan and Mora, since the Johnson City residents discovered it about a year ago. Their chocolate lab Lucy is also a fan, but when she was brought along, the family had to backtrack about a quarter mile if they wanted to enjoy the trails on both sides of the creek.
“It’s more access for our dog,” Megan Wester said. “She was afraid to cross last time because of the tree, she’s very skittish but now we can make a full loop and have a longer time outside and more exercise and family time.”
Kramer said the scope of work has been more ambitious than what the Holston group usually does. The creek rises a good bit during heavy rains, so they had to build abutments several feet above the bank surface, and the bridge will cross about six feet above the normal water level.
He called completing the span a major accomplishment.
“Getting these half-ton logs across the stream was a very arduous type of endeavor and we had so many people show up,” he said. “It went across so easily, we were amazed. I had planned for so many contingencies that I didn’t have to use.”
The club first became involved at Jacob’s Park last year when one of its members, Melanie Kelley, led a grant-funded effort to remove invasive species from the park. During that labor-intensive project, Firth said, “she brought up when the old bridge washed away, that it wasn’t really built right … and I thought this would be a good opportunity to build a bridge.”
He said the group used locust logs because of their durability and resistance to rotting.
A dedication is planned for 1-3 p.m. Oct. 14 and the volunteers hope — but aren’t sure — the bridge will have its caution tape removed and be open for use by then.
Megan Wester said her family is patiently awaiting the new feature.
“We love it,” she said of the park, which they visit several times each season of the year. “We can obviously go out in nature, we can learn new things about different species of trees and everything else that’s here.”