Purchase photos

Building a bridge over a key spring

6/14/2013

SCOTT STATE LAKE -- Where once there was a rickety walkway spanning a trickle of water, today there's a sturdy wide bridge heralding the source of Scott State Lake.

SCOTT STATE LAKE -- Where once there was a rickety walkway spanning a trickle of water, today there's a sturdy wide bridge heralding the source of Scott State Lake.

It's been a popular site since it opened, attracting hundreds of people during Memorial Day weekend, for example. Many just stood on the bridge, while others walked the trail leading from the bridge.

They have Chris Hall, an incoming senior at Scott City Community High School and an Eagle Scout, to thank.

The Big Springs setting had become little more than a weed-choked area, with access blocked off by a split-rail fence and signs that also had fallen into disrepair.

That's when Bruce Wilkens, a Scott County farmer and ardent supporter of the lake, cast about looking for someone interested in sprucing up the site.

Chris became involved when Wilkens asked Kevin Hall -- a scout leader -- if he knew anyone interested in taking on such a massive project.

Kevin Hall knew just the person: His son.

More importantly, Wilkens said he'd cover the cost of all the materials for the project, more than just a bridge over an area of wetlands.

Big Springs is fed by water seeping out of the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground reservoir of sorts that supplies much of the irrigation and drinking water in Plains states.

But Big Springs is more than just a source of water for Scott State Lake, a popular recreational site for the area.

It's also home to the Scott riffle beetle, which exists only in the Big Springs area of Scott State Lake. Because of its small population, it's listed as endangered on Kansas endangered species list. It's less than one-tenth of an inch long, and just was identified as a species in 1978.

Soon after being asked to take on the project, Chris Hall started working, but not just at Big Springs.

He also used a plasma cutter in shop class to cut out a steel plate to fit inside a round piece of steel already at the spring. The steel plate commemorates the first bridge spanning the spring.

Underlaid by telephone poles anchored into the ground, the bridge uses treated wood. Some of the poles weighed hundreds of pounds, lifted part of the way by tractors, but the final reach were hand-carried.

"It looks beautiful," Hall said of the bridge. "I didn't think it would look that good."

Photographs from the project are going to part of an ongoing video display set up in the state park office.