An army of Saco city workers, residents, trail advocates, and college hockey players descended on the local Atlantic Way trail early Saturday morning, their snow boots pounding against a path packed with old leaves and freshly fallen snow from the night before.

The crowd of roughly 45 people was out for more than a pleasant winter hike – armed with rope, some two-by-fours, and a couple of logs, this group was on a mission to restore a washed-out bridge further down the trail.

The wood truss bridge normally sits over a channel in the Rachel Carson marsh near Seaside Avenue, which trail users have to cross about a mile into the Atlantic Way trail. The bridge was washed away about 20 yards from its intended location during a powerful storm in late December that brought high floods to the area.

Mike Tersoni of Framingham, Mass., helps carry the birch tree with fellow members of the University of New England’s men’s hockey team. About a dozen team members joined the effort. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Fortunately, the bridge was not damaged.

John Riordan, a frequent trail user who lives in a neighborhood close to the trail, designed and built the 1,500-pound bridge in 2017. Although the stream was calm earlier Saturday morning, volunteers who are familiar with the trail said that the waterway is subject to high tide.


“In a couple of hours you wouldn’t be able to cross this,” said Susan Slee, another trail user and board member of a nonprofit overseeing all 10 of the Saco Bay Trails.

Volunteers walked along the Atlantic Way trail for about a mile Saturday morning before reaching their destination. In addition to lifting the bridge, it also took about a dozen members of the University of New England’s men’s hockey team to pick up a few logs that were cut from fallen trees, to help slide the bridge into place.

Volunteers and Saco Bay Trails members help move a wood truss bridge back into place on Atlantic Way Trail on Saturday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Once the bridge was in the air, Riordan coached the volunteers through the process. He advised the group to watch out for exposed roots and slippery spots. Now and then, they would put the bridge down for a break. A few hockey players were engaged in a casual snowball fight, throwing clumps of snow at each other and giggling, when Riordan asked if they were ready to resume.

“One, two, three … lift!” Riordan shouted.

Senior Assistant Captain Jake Fuss, currently in his fourth year on the team, estimated that all or most of his teammates were present Saturday. It took nearly 30 people to lift the bridge, which can support the weight of about four people crossing it at once.

Volunteers move a birch tree into position before moving the 1,500-pound bridge back to its original location. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I think it was really cool, having the whole team move that bridge,” Fuss said. It was their coach who learned about the volunteer opportunity from one of his neighbors earlier this week. The team was eager to provide free muscle to the volunteer-led effort.

This was the first time Riordan said volunteers have had to restore one of the three bridges he’s helped construct for Saco Bay Trails. Riordan also helped build two similar bridges on the nearby Wildwood trail system.

Volunteers with Saco Bay Trails said Saturday they’re also working to return smaller “bog” bridges used to cross other sections of the stream.

The University of New England men’s hockey team joins a group of volunteers and Saco Bay Trail members to move a bridge back into place on Atlantic Way Trail on Saturday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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