By: Fordyce Lux
The five faithful, well-rested crewmembers were very excited about the place that their honorable James Simms would be sending them to on their next quest. They had heard rumors about 1400 feet of boardwalk to be completed, but were not fully enlightened as to the logistics of such a project. Trusting in their fearless Crew Leader, Soraya the Great, they ventured through a good part of the kingdom, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, relishing the quaint & rustic charm that the land is acclaimed for far and wide. The crew was very impressed upon arriving at their arranged US Fish & Wildlife accommodations, as having bathrooms and a kitchen is considered quite a luxury compared to typical hitch fair. Feeling very much at home, they dropped their bags posthaste and journeyed to the project site for a better idea of what they’d be doing.
The beautiful Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge would be the backdrop for the construction of a new boardwalk on a previously existing trail located therein called the “Red Maple Trail”. The crew was so grateful for all the support and assistance provided by a wise consultant named Bill, who developed this project and dealt with all the paperwork necessary to make the boardwalk possible. He was revealed as a critically important fountain of knowledge regarding the project. Although this would also be his first time working with this boardwalk/decking system, he had participated in the instillation of a similar boardwalk system in an adjacent park. Bill would remain with the crew for the first several days, imparting all the knowledge that he had gleaned previously down to them, so that the crew may construct as much boardwalk as deemed feasible. The general instillation would entail first drilling two auger poles into the ground, accomplished with the use of an 18inch pipe wrench and unused auger pole on the end for mechanical advantage, before affixing a five foot board to them, then finally installing the three stringers necessary for a boardwalk of this width to the prior board and continuing onward. Some early hiccups slowed the crew down, such as drilling the augers into the ground at the incorrect spot- resulting in difficult measuring and angles necessary to make the stringers fit, but were able to troubleshoot and simplify the process, resulting in the construction of 40 feet of boardwalk the first day, 95 feet on the second day and 150 feet on the third. Progress was slow, but remained interesting due to the variety of required work and the excellent positive energy and morale boost provided by the ever inspirational crew leader.
On the sixth day of their mission, a Student Conservation Association High School crew came to help on the project, as well as continue after our hardworking crew had departed. The six high school crewmembers, as well as two leaders, also shared the same accommodations, resulting in a house that was full, but not prohibitively so. Much merriment and good conversation was had by all, particularly on the night before our crew would be leaving- as our infinitely kind and compassionate crew leader and the two high school crew leaders decided to cook and eat a big family meal together.
By the time the day had come for our diligent crew to make the expedition back to Hawley, 600 feet of boardwalk foundation was built, resulting in 3000 cubic feet of deck space- once the decking is installed. However difficult it may have been to work on a project that isn’t expected to be completed until October, the crew felt confident that they had established a strong foundation for the other crews or volunteers that might be coming later to construct the remaining boardwalk as well as cut and install the actual decking to complete a smooth walkable surface of the boardwalk. They all had an incredible time on their quest, truly appreciating both the hard work and fun that was had by all. Following working, living, and cooking together in the US Fish and Wildlife house they knew that what was achieved on this hitch was so much more than just 600 feet of decking, but strong friendships- built through the trials and tribulations of working and living together. With teamwork & their charismatic crew leader at the helm, there was the lingering feeling that there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be achieved by this Fellowship of the Boardwalk.