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Volunteers work on clearing log jam from Noyes Slough at Aurora Drive bridge

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Posted: Sunday, August 5, 2012 11:34 pm | Updated: 10:35 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The whine of a chainsaw and the throaty chugging of a four-wheeler filled the crisp morning air Friday as three volunteers spent several hours trying to clear a substantial log jam at the Aurora Drive bridge over the Noyes Slough.

The three men are all associated with the Alaska Trappers Association and took the project on as part of an ongoing commitment to the community, Randy Zarnke, the association’s treasurer, said.

“We try and do a whole variety of community service things. When the Tanana Valley Watershed Association announced that they were going to be doing a whole cleanup of the slough we decided we’d do our part,” Zarnke said. “Rather than pick up pop cans and empty grocery bags we decided we’d try and do something that other folks maybe would have a harder time doing. So they asked us if we’d tackle this. You know, it seemed like something fun, but if we had more people we could do a better job.”

According to Zarnke, it was the second time he and fellow volunteers Dick Fuelling and Ross Beal had worked on the log jam this summer but it wouldn’t be the last.

“We won’t get it all today,” Zarnke said, shaking his head as he surveyed the mass of entwined logs stretching from one side of the slough to the other and reaching roughly 20 feet upstream of the bridge. “We’re going to have to nibble away at it, or we need more people or we need bigger equipment or we need something.”

Beal, a member of the ATA board of directors, said he was surprised when he saw the extent of the log jam.

“I think they cleaned up the Wendell Street bridge — it was really snagged up this spring — and nobody picked anything up, they just cut the mess loose, and some went down river and some came in the slough,” Beal said.

Zarnke said he, Beal and ATA member Fuelling were concentrating on removing several large logs Friday.

“Dick came up with the idea. There’s that one, what I would call the kingpin log, that was braced all of the way across, essentially, and he cut it in half and that’s what he’s trying to do now is get that out. So the approach for today is if we can get that big one, and maybe this big one, and that big one, maybe that will loosen everything up and make it a lot easier for when we come back,”

The men were using a four-wheeler to drag the large sections of log up the bank because their chainsaw winch “gave up the ghost,” according to Zarnke. The four-wheeler was laboring under the strain but they didn’t want to drag the logs with a truck because they were trying not to damage the lawn of the property owner who let them stage their operation in her slough-front yard.

“We don’t want to tear this gals yard up anymore than we have,” Fuelling said. “We need some young bucks to just put this stuff on their shoulder and yank it up, instead of us old farts.”

Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7590.

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