Cadillac and Potomac Crews Join Forces on the Turkey Run Multi-Step Step Project
By Abby Ingram et al.

Editor's Note: This report describes work on a very important project.  These steps lead
to a wonderful trail section.  Many people use this trail. It's inside the Beltway.
Please try to join future work trips.

Photo: Cadillac Crew after workTurkey Run Park is a popular destination for day hikers in the DC Metro area. Tucked away just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the park boasts unparalleled views of the Potomac River with its dazzling white sycamore stands lining the steep riverbanks. The park’s trail system makes up a segment of the greater Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

According to co-District Manager Alan Day, it was the 2011 earthquake that threw the first punch, causing major damage to the stone steps leading down to the river. Seasonal erosion further destabilized the trail over the next several years. Replacing these steps is a  complex project which required months of strategic planning coordination between NPS and PATC to secure funding and propose a plan to renovate the trail.

The new timber staircase that Robert Fina designed will not only be earthquake-resistant , but also promises safer, access to the river trail from the uphill parking area. Following months of logistics, the three main on-site tasks, as illustrated in the figure, include: 1) cutting 6X6 timbers to length, 2) rigging of material approximately 200 feet downhill to the work site, and 3) building the steps and handrails. Potomac Crew conducted most of the work to date and invited Cadillac Crew to join the project to kick off their 2020 season.

To further test the challenge-seeking Cadillac Crew, the work site is home to a number of protected species of plants and animals. All work and all supplies were limited to a 1- to 2-foot easement along the trail. While PATC crews are past masters of respect for our outdoors, we are being especially careful in this environmentally sensitive area.

The stairsThe first set of steps were installed at the end of January when the Cadillac Crew split into two sub crews--one at the parking lot processing timbers and the second a quarter-mile down slope at the work site constructing the steps.

Working inside a storage area (a repurposed dog kennel), certified sawyers Martha Becton and Dan Feer custom cut 168 timbers for the second of three deliveries to the stair building site. Team swampers Kirsten Elowsky, Bill Greenan, William Rhyne, and Mike Johnson measured, moved, and stacked timbers safely, quickly, and efficiently to keep the saws hot! Although there was absolutely no competition going between the two saw teams other than avoiding any incident that might earn them the infamous Cadillac Crew Safety Award, impartial observers noted that the two sawyers were running neck and neck until Team Martha's peeled off to assist the step building crew (who had run out of gas for the generator!). A rematch has been proposed for the third and final timber shipment!

Once construction commenced and the build crew got warmed up, the steps began to climb the slope with fine cadence. While the step-setting team (Robert Fina, Abby Ingram, Janet Arici, Eddie Becton, and Tysha Robinson) prepped the ground (cut/fill), the screw crew (new crew member Jon Bittenbender, Steve Phillips, Gilbert Gray, Bill Greenan, and William Rhyne) screwed the timbers into groups of three to six, creating steps and landings. Ideally, the ground was fully prepped just as each new step arrived for setting. The step-setters then placed the step, checked for level, drove in rebar, and screwed each new step to the one below. Then each team reset to start this fine-tuned conveyor belt action once again. Since it might have posed a safety risk, there was absolutely no competition going on between Robert Fina and the rest of the step-setting team regarding rebar and sledgehammers.

With the second shipment of timber work behind them, the upper crew remobilized on Sunday to conduct much needed trail maintenance on the less steep sections of the trail. Norka Luiz Bravo, Sherry Guillen, Mike Johnson, Kirsten Elowsky, and father-and-son team Bob and Rob Alridge joined the crew to help convert water bars to rolling grade dips and improve other drainage features.

The build crew continued its effort to transform all of the Potomac Crew's shipment of timbers into steps creeping up the bank. Respecting Cadillac Crew tradition, Dan Feer, JT Tucker, Jim Hutzler, Bill Greenan, and Greg Wentzel also relocated a perfectly shaped and simply huge six-person boulder to serve as the bottom landing for the stairs. A Cadillac Crew trip is not complete without moving and mostly-reburying the biggest moveable rock in sight! It just made sense to us and we won’t apologize for it.

Many, many more weekends of rigging, timber cutting, and step building will be needed before the new steps are complete. The full project is estimated to take one to two years due to the massive amount of material, the steep topography, the delicate natural resources of the site, and the quantity of stairs to be built. Reach out to Robert Fina ( for more information on the Turkey Run project, and email for other exciting opportunities with the Cadillac Crew. You know you have been wanting to come out and join us!

Photos Above:
Saturday’s kennel and step crews.
Photo: Tysha Robinson

The steps lead down to the Potomac Heritage Trail below, which runs along the Potomac River, as seen rushing in the background.
Photo: Bill Greenan

Dan F., JT T., William R., and Jim H. setting the landing rock.
Photo: Janet Arici

Chainsaw dust foreshadows the fate of the timber Bill G. measures off for steps.
Photo: Martha Becton

Kirsten E., Dan F., and Mike J. preparing a long timber for cutting.
Photo: Martha Becton

Father-son team, Rob and Bob Alridge, joined the crew on Sunday to building rolling grade dips. Norka Ruiz-Bravo clears the outfall in the background.
Photo: Martha Becton

Abby I., Janet A., and Eddie B. digging to clear a flat spot for the next step.
Photo: Robert Fina

Saturday’s Step Crew glowing with pride (and a little Hi-Viz) as they stand on the first of many sets of steps. Eddie Becton expresses how thoroughly jazzed we are all truly feeling on the inside!
Photo: Robert Fina

Gilbert G., and Steve P. construct a timber step.
Photo: Bill Greenan

Janet A. and Robert F. drive rebar to secure the step to the bank. This is not a race! I repeat, this is not a race!
Photo: Abby Ingram

Eddie B. driving rebar into a step to secure it for many years to come.
Photo: Abby Ingram

Martha B. masquerading in her super-suit instructing everyone to “stand back!” as she prepares to treat the timbers with wood preservative.
Photo: Tysha Robinson

Steve P. and Jon B. carrying a fresh step ready for placement.
Photo: Tysha Robinson

Abby I. and Steve P. ready a timber landing for placement.
Photo: Robert Fina