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Inside the barn’s central bay, a worker uses a roller to level fill dirt and crushed rock to compact and level the dirt floor that had become uneven over many decades from foot (and hoof) traffic.

Renovations continue at Olsen Barn

A crew from Greg Lopez Construction begins pouring concrete to replace the old north and south sections of the concrete foundation along the perimeter of the Olsen Barn. Photos by Nils Lunder

Greg Lopez Construction of Lake Almanor has been under contract with the working to restore the Olsen Barn property since 2017, explained Nils Lunder, stewardship manager and director of the Olsen Management Group for Quincy-based Feather River Land Trust.

The company now has completed work for the season, with the company recently replacing the north and south sections of the concrete foundation along the barn’s perimeter. Earlier they installed the east and west segments, making the barn more safe and stable.

Inside the barn’s central bay, workers used a construction road roller and brought in fill dirt and crushed rock, Lunder said. This was in order to level the dirt floor that had become uneven over many decades from foot (and hoof) traffic, when dairy farmer Peter Olsen led his cows into the barn to milk during the cold winter months.

After extricating the old soil, about two feet of new fill helped stabilize and reinforce the two inner foundation concrete walls that stood about three feet in height. These were originally poured in the 19th Century, but still remained in good condition.

Those interior walls that delineate the two side bays of the barn, bear a lot of the weight of the structure, Lunder noted.

“We deemed that bringing in the crushed rock would prevent the inner walls from being undermined from years of erosion,” he said. They already showed signs of exposure along the old concrete base.

Leveling and compacting “also provided a nice surface for future events that might take place inside the barn,” hopefully in a year or two, he said. These could include such things as concerts, weddings or other celebratory events.

The FRLT hosted several community events in and around the barn in 2017 and 2018, including history talks and live music by the band Rickety Bridge. That also featured an outdoor barbecue celebrating progress being made at the barn site.

Currently, community members are asked to hold off entering the barn until further notice for safety reasons.

In addition to the work on the barn, eight new benches were installed just outside the barn for the Learning Landscapes program, said Lunder. This program is where students from Chester Elementary School (and visitors to the property) and other students in Plumas County could sit and learn while their teachers discussed the Feather River Watershed. Or instructors could talk about the 107-acre Chester Meadow and its habitats supporting an assortment of species. The benches will provide a comfortable place to be seated while they write in their science journals.

The new concrete foundation sets for a day or two before the weight of the barn is lowered and secured into place.

He added that Greg Lopez milled the timber used for the benches, as well as the wood beams already constructed at the official entrance to the Olsen Barn and meadow off Highway 36 just east of town. A sign on the top beam of the entryway is planned sometime next year that will say “Olsen Barn Meadow.”

Greg Lopez Construction last year sent a crew to the barn site to replace some roofing that was blown off by high winds. They also removed and replaced some damaged siding on the southern gable end of the barn.

They also installed metal flashing on both the north and south sides of the roof for added strength.

Lunder is looking for a local contractor to build a road connector from the highway to the parking area. Currently vehicles can still easily turn off the highway and into the parking space, but Lunder said he wanted a connector that would be paved.

Lunder said his goal in next year’s work plan is to create a budget that includes additional siding work on the barn. This is dependent on the availability of funding. He would also replace the barn’s two sliding doors.

The organization will be maintaining and planning new trails, developing and installing new interpretive signs, plus eventually install a water line to the barn for fire suppression purposes and for a drinking fountain for visitors and their pets.

That’s why community donations are so important, Lunder said. FRLT is already campaigning for more funds now to continue upgrading the Olsen Barn.

FRLT’s dedicated stewardship staff, along with members of the Olsen Management Group, is committed to monitor and care for the property forever.

Lunder remarked that, “We really appreciate the generous donations we receive from the community to keep this project moving forward.”

For more information on the campaign to restore the Olsen Barn contact Nils Lunder or Development Director Karen Kleven at 283-5758; also check out Feather River Land Trust’s website: www.frlt.org.

Four of a total of eight new benches are installed just outside the Olsen Barn for the Learning Landscapes program, where students from Chester Elementary School (and visitors to the property) and other students in Plumas County could sit and learn while writing in their science journals.

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