Mountain rehab is tough trek
And the love life of a dusky yellow bird.
From April, when the first mourning warbler arrived on Mount Greylock, to early July, when the last of the fledglings left the nests, J.H. Maxymillian Inc., the general contractor of Mount Greylock's road project, was restricted to working on the lower two miles of Notch Road and the lower four miles of Rockwell Road.
The Mount Greylock Historic Parkway Restoration broke ground about 90 days ago, and the project considered to be the largest capital improvement project in the history of Massachusetts' state park system has required its share of patience and strategy, for workers and visitors alike.
Despite the holdups, the rehab project is "twelve to fifteen percent complete," according to project engineer Kenneth J. Neary Jr.
'Exercise in logistics'
It was lunchtime on the state's highest peak, and Neary, who is a regional engineer for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, was driving a pickup on Rockwell Road.
As the truck jolted along, he pointed out the orange mesh fencing that had been erected on the side of the road, an indication that a protected species of vegetation was nearby.
"Even trying to turn around on the road can be a problem," he said. "The job is an exercise in logistics for the contractors. We knew about the blackpoll warbler that nests near the summit. But we didn't know about the mourning warbler."
Besides the warbler, there are nine other protected species of plants and animals near the site, Neary said, and workers had to take a 30-minute workshop to learn how not to disturb them.
According to Misty-Anne Marold, a biologist for Natural Heritage Endangered Species program, part of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, there are some plant species in the state that can be found only on Mount Greylock.
"And, unlike an animal, a plant can't run away if a truck gets too close," Marold said.
She also noted that Maxymillian was "committed" to being as gentle as possible.
Fixing the culverts
Before the roads are repaved, crews must repair the road culverts; there are 192 on the mountain, and 140 of them are being replaced, Neary said. Eighty-one culverts already have been fixed.
The culverts originally were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and, Neary said, one of the project goals along with a smoother and safer ride for Mount Greylock's motorists is to restore the site to its former splendor. The corrugated metal culverts will be replaced with concrete, and the supporting fieldstone will be rebuilt. At the same time, the cement bollards, affectionately known as "hippo teeth," will be replaced by historically correct guardrails made of cedar and steel.
Along with the culverts, the Maxymillian crews are working on overall erosion control.
Neary said there are 20 Maxymillian crew members on site, working five days a week, with Saturday shifts "under contemplation."
BioFence, a biodegradable material that looks like thin burlap, is used along the roadway to prevent siltation, Neary said.
Subdrainage pipe is being laid parallel to about nine miles of roadway; Neary noted that water runoff and poor drainage are largely responsible for the road erosion.
"It's a big problem during the freeze and thaw," he said.
Neary parked the truck and walked over to the Sperry Road culvert one of the site's "jobs within a job."
A section of the road, he said, must be excavated about 15 feet down to the deteriorated metal culvert, and six sections of 4-foot-diameter concrete culvert will be laid in.
Similarly, the Mount Fitch Overlook is another major project; the road shoulder is almost completely eroded.
"Fixing this part of the road is mandatory," Neary said.
Driving farther down Notch Road, Neary passed a Gordon's Tree Service truck; the Dalton-based company has been on site for about five days, according to owner Dan Gordon.
The four-man crew leads the procession up Notch Road, Gordon said, noting that his crew must clear overhanging branches; Maxymillian's excavators need about 30 feet of clearance.
"We're trying to cover a mile every three days," Gordon said. "We should have all three roads cleared in eight weeks."
Still farther down, two Maxymillian crew members have incised a jagged, 6-foot cut across Notch Road. Their hoe ram a mammoth machine that is part excavator, part jackhammer is parked nearby.
"More ledge," Paul Wilk said. "Can you believe it?"
He said it takes about one day to install a culvert, but that the ledge rock "is really tough."
Still, Wilk and his co-worker aren't complaining.
"How can you beat this?" Randy Hathaway said. "We're the only ones here. No overhead wires, no utilities, no underground cable, no traffic. It's great."
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