A Tense Moment… and Dogs

by the RORG Team

This post covers September 12th – 16th. Disclaimer: the team has been working LONG consecutive days. Planting started September 16th and we are very excited about it. While you’ll read a little about planting here, stay tuned for posts that feature planting in more detail in the next few days! But first, the tense moment drama. Dun dun DUNNN.


TONY: Howdy. Well, so much for the countdown to our final construction day on Friday. Things hit a bit of a snag when it came time to pour the bridge foundations. Like Kate reminded me, it wouldn’t be a construction project if everything went smoothly.

KATE: I went to the garden to take photos. As soon as I arrived, I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know WHAT was wrong…and wasn’t sure I wanted to ask.

TONY: Things had been moving along, the grounds crew were on-site doing some final site dressing and yesterday the labor shop excavated underneath the bridge and used the 24″ auger to bore the holes for the footings. This morning, the concrete finishers were on-site to begin pouring the footings and when they ran the string lines for the bridge deck, we realized we had an issue. A couple of modifications to the original design had left us with too little separation between the bridge deck and finished grade elevations. The original bridge design had a structural depth of 24″ and in some places there was only 12″ between the deck elevation and the ground. This needed a rework so the concrete finishers and laborers packed up while we worked to figure out how to proceed. I went to the office to brief Eliana.

ELIANA: Today, I walked into the office to find a very serious-looking Tony. For months, I’ve been working with 4 nurseries and the university greenhouse to receive 9,000 plants for the following week’s installation. Thousands of plants have arrived this week and are in the greenhouse. Tony brought me up to speed about the issue and said that he planned to consult with Prof. Bill Gamble, Civil and Environmental Engineering, who has been helping with structural design. Keeping all those plants in mind, I nevertheless assured Tony that getting the boardwalk’s foundation right was the highest priority and that we had time. Still, I suggested that Tony email Prof. Gamble now…or call. Or email and call. Now.

TONY: After taking some measurements on-site, I went to meet with Prof. Gamble, who (happily) had responded to my email right away. We evaluated the initial design and looked at where we could reduce the depth of the structure while still being able to support the design load. Our initial design had been based off a U.S. Forest Service standard, which called for Southern Pine. For this bridge, however, we’re using Osage Orange, which is a much stronger wood and allowed us to make some serious size reductions. Upon evaluating the design, we were able to reduce the joist size from 2x10s to 2x6s and reduce the header beams from 2×12 to 3×9. This reduced the depth of the bridge structure by 5″ in order to minimize the amount of additional excavation that would be required and avoid damaging the tree roots as much as possible.


LAYNE: A blur of plants….thousands and thousands of plants have arrived. I.AM.IN.HEAVEN.

TONY: With a plan in hand, we headed back out this morning to excavate more dirt underneath the bridge and re-auger the footings. Unfortunately, it rained this morning leaving the ground soft and we decided it was best to keep the equipment off the garden until it had a chance to dry out to avoid any unnecessary soil compaction.


TONY: So, with plan in hand again, we headed back out there and re-dug that hole and re-augered those holes! After last week’s issues, we knew exactly how much we needed to cut to fit the structure and still minimize harm to the tree roots. Excavating the basin and augering the holes took most of the morning and in the afternoon, the labor crew came back with open-graded No. 57 stone to lay a base for the footings.

Once that was complete, Josh and the concrete finishers began removing the sidewalk at the south end of the boardwalk. This way, the concrete finishers could pour the approach and abutment when they came to pour the footings. In the meantime, the sidewalk is closed.

While all of this was happening, the rest of the RORG team was busy with the first day of planting! Community volunteers from the Extension Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Programs were on-site first thing in the morning (a smart decision for a day working in the sun). They began planting in the south cell under the direction of Layne, who pre-drilled holes on Sunday. In addition to the Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, we had volunteers from two classes. Bridgette Moen’s Landscape Architecture 452 class was out in the morning and Erin Harper’s Horticulture 100 class came out in the afternoon. It’s amazing how much gets done when you have that many volunteers.


ALL: We are too tired from long days of planting to write any more right now. BUT when we do, it’ll be worth it. To hold your attention, here some photos of a couple of RORG visitors who we may or may not have rushed over to pet.

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