In the serene setting of Ohio’s Hocking Hills State Park, a remarkable concrete bridge spans Old Man’s Creek. Made from a series of cast-in-place concrete platforms and piers, this bridge is a testament to both resilience and design.
The need for this structure arose from a catastrophic event on January 7, 1998. A flash flood ravaged Old Man Cave’s Gorge Trail, severely damaging its three stone bridges and completely obliterating seven wooden bridges. This disaster made it clear that a stronger, more durable trail system was urgently needed to withstand the impulses of nature. To fulfill this need, MS Consultants of Columbus was entrusted with the task of designing structures that could endure future floods while enhancing the park’s natural allure.
The reconstruction project unfolded in two distinct phases. The initial phase focused on establishing temporary trails and erecting temporary bridges. At the same time, extensive computer simulations of floods were conducted. These simulations were crucial to ensure that the new designs would be robust and long-lasting, especially in an age where storms are becoming more severe with the gradual heating of the atmosphere.
In November 2000, the second phase commenced, led by Cody Ziegler Inc. of Reynoldsburg. This phase was more ambitious, featuring the construction of an 80-foot suspension bridge near Cedar Falls. It also included the replacement of two stone arch bridges at Old Man’s Cave and Lower Falls, each 80 and 79 feet long, respectively. Additionally, the restoration efforts extended to the stone arch bridges at Upper Falls and Devil’s Bathtub. The scope of work also comprised the repair of a steel bridge near Cedar Falls, the completion of 15 steel and concrete bridges, and the creation of Ohio’s first formally engineered stepping stone crossing over Old Man’s Creek along the Gorge Trail. This innovative crossing was characterized by cantilevered reinforced concrete pedestal abutments.
The extensive efforts to rebuild Hocking Hills’ trail system spanned four years, culminating in a $4.1 million project that was officially recognized by state and local officials on May 17, 2002.
This project not only restored the trails but also brought them acclaim, earning the 2003 Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Ohio for its remarkable achievement.
Sources: “State completes project to redevelop Old Man’s Cave trails.” Lancaster Eagle-Gazette,19 May 2002, p.12B.