2022-2023 Fern Trail Boardwalk Restoration

Text and photos by Deb Ford

The Fern Trail is one of the most popular trails at Newport. Because it is a relatively flat, wide trail, it was identified as a trail that could be made accessible to park visitors with disabilities. Several sections of wheelchair-navigable crushed limestone and ground-level boardwalk were installed in the early 2000’s. Seven interpretive display stations which feature audio and tactile experiences were added in 2011. These interpretive panels use Discovery Pen technology and were the long-time vision of then-park naturalist Julie Hein. 

2011 ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the installation of interpretive displays along the Fern Trail (photo by Melody Walsh)

Because of repeated seasonal flooding along a wetland section of the trail, Newport Wilderness Society decided to replace the ground-level segments of boardwalk with a contiguous 1,800-foot, elevated, ADA-compliant boardwalk. The project was planned and coordinated by NWS board members Gene Kenny, Mark Glasser, and Greg Wilde.

Gene Kenny and spring 2022 flooding along the Fern Trail (photo by Deb Ford)

The first phase of this project was the ‘deconstruction’ of the original boardwalk segments by NWS volunteers in the fall of 2021. All board-wood that was removed was stripped of nails, screws and other hardware, and almost 90% it was repurposed (i.e. kept out of the landfill).

Gerry Swanson, Terry Heidenreiter, Chad Farrell, Dave Keen removing old boardwalk (Nov 2021)

Construction of the first 600′ of elevated boardwalk began in September 2022. NWS volunteers helped unload construction materials and supplied all of the construction labor. We are thrilled that there are a significant number of women who are participating in the construction work. Many NWS friends are volunteering behind the scenes to provide beverages, food, and other vital support.

Gerry Swanson and Greg Thoma moving construction material (September 2022)
Installing deck frames (September 2022)
Screwing down deck boards (October 2022)

We completed the remaining 1200′ of boardwalk during late summer and fall of 2023. There are still some finishing touches to complete (bump outs; benches), but the majority of the project is complete.

fern trail boardwalk
(L-R) Gene Kenny; Chris Carlson; Randy Tyson; Don Schmitt; Dave Keen; Herb Shoemaker (July 2023)
Mary O’Grady; Mary Ellen Sullivan (Sept 2023)
Carol Olson autographing the deck board (Sept 2023)
(Clockwise from L) Larry Gales; Les Keepper; Carol Olson; Bruce Pikas; Jim Ryan (August 2023)
(L-R) Ed Vangemert; Chris Carlson; Bud Shoemaker; Rick Foster (Oct 2023)
The final deck board has been placed (Oct 2023)
Some of our NWS Fern Trail construction volunteers (September 30, 2023)

NWS board member Deb Ford photo-documented many moments of this infrastructure project over its 2+ years of planning and construction. Her collection of photos is here.