Steps to a better experience – Volunteers built stairs at Calamus swamp

2017 Conservation Grant Recipients
January 22, 2018
Braving the Cold for Winter Birds
January 22, 2018

The latest project at Calamus Swamp was the completion of the reconstruction of two stairway connectors from the Calamus loop trail to the Pickaway County Parks and Recreation Rail Trail at the south end of the preserve. The progression of events was as follows:


November 20: Volunteers Tom and Donna Sheley and Al, Jill and Lauren Blyth converged at the Sheley homestead in Fairfield County to deconstruct a deck and stairway with the intention of using the materials to help reconstruct the stairways at Calamus.


December 5: Tom Sheley and Al Blyth finished the deck deconstruction and transported the materials to Calamus Swamp Preserve. Final measurements were taken and plans finalized, and the materials were stored and covered onsite at Calamus.


December 18: Tom Sheley, Al and Chuck Blyth and Bill Styer met at Calamus to begin the reconstruction phase of the stairways. The old stairs were deconstructed and it was determined that all of the treads and railing material was too decomposed to salvage. The original elevation posts and stringers were used as reinforcing “bones” to help brace the new stringers, rail posts and treads. Most of the west stairway was deconstructed and rebuilt along with the deconstruction of the east stairway on this day.


December 20: Tom Sheley, Al and Chuck Blyth and Blaine Keckley met at Calamus to finish the stairway project. Tom procured and transported the remainder of the lumber required for the railings and Al procured the remainder of the tread material. The railing was finished on the west stairway as well as attaching the wire overlay to improve footing. The east stairway was constructed. The final wire overlay was completed by Blaine Keckley the next day.


The 2017 construction of the stairways was a vast structural improvement in both engineering and materials. Construction expertise by professionals Al and Chuck Blyth along with willing experienced volunteers, Bill Styer, Tom Sheley and Blaine Keckley, resulted in structures that should be functional for many years to come. Rail posts (4×4) were sunk 18-24” into the ground and butted to the stringers for solid support. 2×6 railings were attached to these 4×4 rail posts. Another improvement involved running the upper decking 5 feet out over the berm of the rail trail to allow the correct elevation of the top of the stairway and help prevent washout of the hillside around the structure, which was a problem with both previous stairways.


I am proud and pleased that we were able to complete the project at no cost to Columbus Audubon. Approximately 75% of the treated lumber materials needed for the project were salvaged from a deck and stairway from the residence of Tom and Donna Sheley. The remainder of the lumber was purchased and donated by Tom Sheley and Al Blyth. Screws, bolts and other hardware were donated by Al and Chuck Blyth and Tom Sheley. Al Blyth Construction donated use of a generator and vast store of tools, and each volunteer brought their own personal tools as well.


This project could not have been completed as it was without the expertise, equipment and volunteer effort of Al and Chuck Blyth. They were a joy to work with, along with Bill Styer and our resident Calamus volunteer “caretaker”, Blaine Keckley, and the added support of Donna Sheley, Jill and Lauren Blyth. A BIG Thank you to everyone involved!


by Tom Sheley