Innovative plastic bridge will span Arroyo Santa Rosa

By Alex Wilson 12/30/2010

A charity that builds and maintains recreational trails in the Santa Rosa Valley between Camarillo and Moorpark will construct a new bridge using recycled plastic. Santa Rosa Valley Trails Inc.’s leaders say it’s the first time the new high-tech building material will be used anywhere in California.

The plastic I-beams were developed by a company called Axion International. The material was recently featured in a Newsweek article naming it one of the top 10 Big Green Ideas for 2010. A larger plastic bridge was tested by the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C., where it supported the weight of M-1 tanks, so horses and bicyclists should be no problem.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors recently approved an easement across the Arroyo Santa Rosa near E. Las Posas Road, and gave the group permission to use Ventura County Watershed Protection District property. The bridge will be about 25 feet long and should cost less than $20,000. Construction is planned for early next year.

Santa Rosa Valley Trails Inc. President Mark Burley says they formed about six years ago to link trails around the scenic valley. “What we’re there for is to try and create opportunities to have trails and trail easements that could be placed on private property or public property,” said Burley. “The county was not comfortable with that liability.”

The charity has a six-person board of directors and about 50 sponsors who fund projects like the bridge, and it carries a liability insurance policy to ease concerns of county officials.

The new bridge will fill a gap in a trail that was once connected by a path across Arroyo Santa Rosa but was destroyed during a heavy rain year. Since then, horses, hikers and cyclists have been forced to share a bridge with motorized traffic. “Consequently, horses are having to go over the road bridge, which is sort of a dangerous situation because the horses are right next to a 40-foot drop on one side and cars on the other side,” said Burley.

The group is happy to have found a way to use recycled material from products like plastic bags instead of a more traditional steel design. “My bridge engineer was very exited about using this, because it is a way of making these kinds of recreational bridges for less money but having the same strength,” says Burley.

Burley told county supervisors that the bridge will help connect the growing network of trails in the hilly, semi-rural area. “We also created the first trail plan and map of the whole Santa Rosa Valley, which is now in the process of going through the Resource Management Agency in order to, hopefully, be adopted by this board sometime in the future. It’s the official trail plan for the Santa Rosa Valley,” said Burley.

People who want to help support the charity or learn more about the growing trail system can visit the website at

County supervisors gave the project unanimous and enthusiastic support, and Supervisor Peter Foy said he was happy it will be built by the charity. “I appreciate the opportunity to see that the public wants something, and they want to pay for it. That’s great,” said Foy.

Supervisor Linda Parks also said it’s a positive use of new green technology that might, be adapted for other future projects. “I think that says a lot for Ventura County, that were paving the way for using green materials in our construction,” said Parks.


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