Ali Lee: Meet You At Brookwood Covered Bridge

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brookwood Covered Bridge. From the Brookwood Covered Bridge/Jacoby Creek Facebook page

Brookwood Covered Bridge, in Bayside, California, is one of three remaining covered bridges in Humboldt County.  According to a “California Covered Bridges List” by Dale Travis, there are 56 covered bridges remaining in the state as of December 2012 (  Soon there may be only 55.

In Humboldt, the other two covered bridges are both in Elk River Watershed, south of Eureka.  Built in 1936, Berta’s Ranch Covered Bridge spans 52 feet.  Built a year later, the Zane’s Ranch Bridge is also 52 feet long. There are about 1,600 covered bridges remaining in the world.  Soon there may be one fewer.

Once there was another Brookwood Covered Bridge, in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, spanning Hurricane Creek.  Built in 1850, the lattice truss bridge was destroyed by fire in 1961 (

At 66 feet in length, the local Brookwood Bridge is the longest in Humboldt.  Just over a mile southeast of Old Arcata Road, and a jog to the right off of Jacoby Creek Road onto Brookwood Drive, the rural area is defined by the bridge Earl Biehn and his neighbors built.‘s Margaret Gainer has interviewed Mary Biehn, cousin to one of the bridge’s builders, for a previous article featured in the Eye .  Gainer confirmed “The Biehns helped build the Grange Hall and were instrumental in the community.”

The tall, red, rural icon – with white trim –is not just charming and peaceable.  It functions as the neighborhood’s only way in and out of the plateau where over 20 houses, belonging to the Brookwood subdivision sit adjacent to Jacoby Creek.  A small, white guard rail flanks the entrance to the bridge.

Brookwood is a single span bridge, with timber trusses and an external walkway for pedestrians.  Since the walkway is narrow, bicyclists either walk their bikes on the open walkway or legally take the lane as they cycle through the bridge with its open sides.

Online, Sam Scott Photography posts an evocative, side-view photo of the bridge–looking up-stream.  The photo provides a view of Brookwood Covered Bridge  in context with salmon-bearing, Jacoby Creek below.  For visitors, the local bed and breakfast Rose Court Cottage features a through view of the bridge and the county’s website directs people to “Covered Bridges of Humboldt County” at (See the Historic Sites section.)

Brookwood residents Chip and Charlotte Dixon attended the Bayside Area Old Arcata Road Safety Initiative Meeting, at the historic Bayside Grange, and explained that the bridge’s walkway was once removed and then replaced when neighbors advocated to re-establish a walkway for safety.  Concerned community members, the Dixons seek clarification if there are safety issues with the bridge or not.  They worry the county pursues funds to demolish the idyllic, wooden, truss bridge in lieu of a modern cement and metal bridge.

Truss bridges rely upon triangulation for strength  A load at one point on a truss bridge gets distributed over a wider area while the bridge maintains its rigidity.  Brookwood is a through truss bridge, meaning travelers pass between (not above) the trusses to get from one side to the next.  While the trusses are redwood, the original floor beams were fir.  The Brookwood bridge is reminiscent of an elegant, red barn.

The local bridge speaks of memory long before Clint Eastwood’s 1995 movie, based upon Robert James Waller’s 1992 book of the same name, The Bridges of Madison County, revived interest in covered bridges.  America has had a long spanning romance with covered bridges.

In 2009. Brookwood residents celebrated the covered bridge’s 40th birthday.  Reporter Carol Harrison documented the event in the Eureka Times-Standard article “The Covered Bridges of Humboldt County.”  Harrison wrote: “That the Brookwood Covered Bridge ever went up is a story of fate, penny-pinching, problem solving and tenacity.” Furthermore, at the time of construction, “The bridge cost $19,600.”(  The article features a photo of the bridge under construction.

Using an inflation calculator to adjust the original $19,600 price tag, the equivalent in 2013 dollars totals $136,784.  The historical value to the community is priceless.  The Humboldt County Historical Society (707)445-4342 offers website links at for people who want to further research the bridge.

Covered bridges were designed to increase the lifetime of wood bridges.  Covered Bridges of California Counties describes the Brookwood Bridge (not the 1937 Zane’s Bridge) as being the last covered bridge built in California and as having been built in 1967 and being 68 feet long.  The covered bridge list, by Travis, describes Brookwood  Bridge as being built in 1969 and being 66 feet long.

Long before the Brookwood Bridge was ever conceived, the indigenous Wiyot people who farmed the 17.3 square mile Jacoby Creek Watershed crossed the creek by foot.

The Dixons are new to grassroots advocacy, but have concern for bridge since they have lived adjacent to it since 1985. They are working with Bayside neighbors and the Nextdoor Bayside on-line community to protect the Brookwood Bridge if, indeed, it needs protecting.  Charlotte explained, “It’s a finely crafted labor of love by Earl Biehn and Charles Roscoe, both of whom are turning 90 this year.  It would be a shame to lose this part of our local culture.”

The Dixons have been referred to the The National Society for the Preservation of Covered and 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace: (707) 476-2393 The Dixons have contacted Chris Whitworth, Deputy District Director of Humboldt County Public Works, to learn if and why the Brookwood Covered Bridge is being discussed.

To reach the Dixons about a neighborhood meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m..,Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at the Brookwood Covered Bridge, e-mail