Community involvement, grants help complete construction of 100-foot suspension bridgeWARRENTON - For many people a bridge represents a pathway into the future. For the Astoria Rotary Club and Camp Kiwanilong, a bridge represents hard work and the willingness to make a positive change in the lives of area youths.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the main trail behind Camp Kiwanilong's camping grounds to open a new bridge that will provide better access to 200 acres of trails and learning areas.

Denny Holmes, past president of the Astoria Rotary Club, said this was a dream come true for him as he cut the ribbon Monday.

"This really has been a labor of love for me," he said. "I truly do envision this place as a classroom for thousands and thousands of kids.

"This bridge will become a platform or field station for teaching nature and ecology. It can accommodate in excess of 3,000 students per year, for many years to come."

Also excited about the opening of the bridge was Debbie Dempsey, chairwoman of the Camp Kiwanilong board.

"What really makes all of this so special was that it was a community project," she said. "Without the people who helped, we would have never been able to do this.

"It's just so unique to have something like this. This will be the main route to the rest of the camp."

The bridge, which goes over Lily Pad Pond, is a 100-foot suspension bridge replacing a floating bridge that Dempsey and Holmes said was constantly needing repairs.

Holmes has been working on the project since early February. He developed the plans after checking out bridges in Oswald West State Park, then watched the State Parks Department build another bridge over Arch Cape Creek.

With the help of a $2,000 grant from the Rotarians, and aid from various community members like the Tongue Point Job Corps Center's carpentry class and the staff of the Clatsop County Sheriff's Department, the bridge became a reality.

"We could not have done this without the help of so many people," Holmes said. "The sheriff's department provided a lot of muscle for us and the kids from Job Corps were great. They volunteered for two days helping to get the wood ready for the bridge."

Holmes said Rotary Club members have worked to help Camp Kiwanilong for many years.

"We do something every year for the camp," Holmes said. "This year we wanted to do something really special. The camp had suggested some things to the Rotary and then said something about needing a new bridge; I said I wanted to be a part of that."

Most of the labor came from volunteers, but professional contributions came from Englund Marine and City Lumber. Wade Halbrook Concrete started the project in late February by pouring the concrete for the posts.

For Holmes and Dempsey, the addition of the bridge is more than just a badly needed facelift for the camp.

"This is basically like a launch pad to the rest of the trails here," Dempsey said. "The campers will be able to do so much now."