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Spikes Help Nail Funds

FARMVILLE – The Friends of High Bridge Trail State Park know how to make a point.

Well, really, they put a new finish on the points others have made.

A long time ago.

If you stop by the Heartland Visitor's Center and Transportation Museum on East Third Street you'll see a collection of railroad spikes on a shelf behind the welcome desk and the handiwork of Roger Hamel.

The Friends, in an effort headed by Hamel, spruce up some of the old railroad spikes that once graced the trail and High Bridge itself and give customers a chance to take home a part of history.

The project helps the Friends who, in turn, help the park itself.

“I couldn't even tell you how many we've done or…I've done,” Hamel said in a recent interview with The Herald.

Hamel, who has logged close to 1,000 hours as a volunteer for the state parks since 2001 (including time at Holiday Lake State Park), is working on a set of plaques for the various dignitaries (each contain a bridge spike) for the official grand opening of the bridge. Crafted individual plaques with mounted spikes from the bridge take about three to four hours each.

It's a nice piece of history to take home and, perhaps remarkably, the good news is that there was the foresight to separate those removed from the trail from those that came from the bridge.

In case you're wondering, the bridge spikes go for a higher cost.

“…It has been going wonderfully,” offers Friends President David Buckalew.

He speculates they've sold a couple hundred dollars worth of spikes.

Not bad considering they sell for so little. A basic rail spike from the trail sells for $7; ones from the bridge (which are from a more limited pool) sell for $10. Hand crafted additions come in a variety of prices from $19 to as high $89.

How does that pay off?

Added to the “first across” fundraiser (where the winner was able to be the first park guest to walk across the completed High Bridge) and other efforts, the Friends group was able to purchase about 70 original glass negatives taken in the construction of the 1914 bridge for the state park.

And those will be available when the park gets its own visitor center.

Buckalew noted that everything they do is devoted to getting the High Bridge Trail State Park off the ground.

Buckalew assessed that the state park system has been under duress for about the past 10 years, noting that it's been a “fairly depressed state economy situation” since about 2001. State parks that have an active Friends group, he also said, is a nice symbiosis for the state operated facilities.

“We always feel that we are appreciated,” Buckalew said, noting the comments of the Park staff. “And…that's all the payback we need really as…the Friends group.”

It has taken some elbow grease and time, particularly for the spikes project. The spikes are wire brushed, washed with mineral spirits and get two coats of a clear, satin, enamel finish-with those from the bridge getting particular attention. Friends even held cleaning parties.

“I have been volunteering and working for the park system for…going on 11 years now off and on…And when I was working over at Holiday Lake, Eric Hougland was the manager over there and then when he moved to High Bridge, we were talking about the spikes,” Hamel said.

Hamel recounted that he came up with the idea to clean them up and put them on plaques.

He doesn't remember who came up with selling the individual spikes. The Friends group, Hamel would later add, has “just taken it one or two steps farther than what we originally planned on doing.”