McCloud Nature Park Truss Bridge Redecked

The completed truss bridge deck.

Just in time for spring, the iconic truss bridge at McCloud Nature Park has a new deck and is ready for the park’s peak visitation season. Designed by Hendricks County Parks & Recreation Park Manager Jim Holtsclaw and completed by the department’s maintenance crew over the winter, the redecking project was done at no cost to Hendricks County property tax payers.

Originally built in 1913, the 120-foot-long truss bridge crossed Monon Creek in Pulaski County, Indiana, until it was disassembled in 2006. The bridge was relocated to McCloud Nature Park, reassembled, decked with white oak timbers, and opened to the public in 2010.

Over time, however, the oak timbers expanded, contracted, bowed, and warped, creating some significant safety concerns.

“Many of the timbers bowed at the edges, causing tripping hazards,” said assistant superintendent Eric Ivie, who was serving as interim superintendent at the time the decision was made to redeck the bridge.

“Additionally, as the timbers shrunk, gaps formed in between them that were large enough for a child’s or an animal’s foot to fall through. Our maintenance crew repaired the decking many times over the years, but the timbers’ deterioration continued until it became clear that a long-term solution was needed.”

Ron Fox, Gene Ardeel, and Kurt Steuer begin removing the old deck timbers.

The parks department received a ballpark estimate from a local contractor of about $100,000 to redeck the bridge, but Holtsclaw had a different plan in mind. He came up with his own proposal for the maintenance crew to complete the project for about $18,000 in materials and tools.

Addressing Ivie’s two major areas of concern, Holtsclaw designed the work plan to keep the crew members as safe as possible and to keep the bridge open to park guests on evenings and weekends, even while it was under construction.

After some tweaks to the proposal that were suggested by Hendricks County Engineer John Ayers, Holtsclaw’s plan was approved by the Hendricks County Park Board, and construction commenced in January. Maintenance technicians Jake Brooks, Ron Fox, Nathan Shaffer, and Kurt Steuer, along with volunteer Gene Ardeel, completed the project in March at a cost of just over $18,000.

A private donation of more than $15,000 covered most of that cost, and the remaining $3,000 or so was paid for with Food & Beverage taxes – taxes collected when people eat or drink at Hendricks County restaurants. The maintenance crew didn’t work any additional hours than they normally would over the winter, resulting in no more money than usual being spent on wages.

The total cost to Hendricks County property tax payers, then, was absolutely nothing.

The new decking is made with treated pine lumber boards lined up on edge and attached to the iron bridge frame using cleats that were recommended by Ayers. Angle iron along both edges of the decking will prevent the boards from bowing. Holtsclaw expects the decking to last 20 years or more.

The oak timbers that were replaced have been saved and will be repurposed on other park projects.

“We resolved a number of safety concerns at a fraction of the estimated cost to contract this job out, and at no cost to Hendricks County taxpayers,” Ivie said. “Jim and his crew did an amazing job on this project from start to finish.”