Boardwalk Empire

We are now into our second week of our first hitch. We are the first ever NH Corps crew to have a full hitch in Maine. The project is to replace a boardwalk through the Saco Heath near the mouth of the Saco River in South East Maine. A heath is a form of a bog. In Saco, two adjacent ponds were filled in with peat. Year after year, the peat accumulated until the two ponds merged above the water table to form a “coalesced bog,” or heath.

The boardwalk was built about 20 years ago by the Nature Conservancy and many volunteers. For the past few years, there have been efforts to rebuild the decaying boardwalk through small volunteer efforts. The results were effective, but inconsistent. They replaced the worst sections with material donated to the Nature Conservancy. Our purpose is to start from the beginning, and set a standard for other volunteers to follow in the future. We’re starting where the boardwalk begins, about ¼ mile from the parking lot, and going as far as we can until July 16th.

This is the first time I’ve ever done any carpentry work, and it’s incredibly rewarding to walk on the finished sections throughout the day, knowing that our crew was able to build something so solid in a place where the water is consistently half-way up our shins. Every clean 8ft. section of finished boardwalk was preceded by demolition of the old rotted wooden section, digging through dirt and mud to reach soil. Then comes a lot of leveling and re-leveling, and finally, putting the frame in place and screwing in the decking. Our gloves become soaked in the first five minutes, and occasionally a nice splash of water comes higher than our rubber boots. Progress comes 8ft at a time, and each section feels better than the last.

We want to make this boardwalk last a long time. We want to make this beautiful place accessible for as many people as possible. We want to exceed the expectations of the site agency, our site contact, our conservation manager back in NH, and most of all ourselves. This being the first time I’ve worked on a project like this, it’s hard to conceive what the end result will look like. Throughout our time so far our crew has been able to find the motivation within themselves to be safe, work hard, have fun, and learn something along the way.