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Open Space Institute Partnership with West Point Leads to New Bridge at Fahnestock State Park

COLD SPRING, NY — For the second year in a row, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has partnered with cadets from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) to replace a trail bridge on the School Mountain Road trail in the Hubbard Lodge area of Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.

The bridge crosses a tributary of Clove Creek and is a capstone project for civil engineering cadets at the USMA. This is the second class of cadets to design and construct a bridge at Fahnestock with support from OSI and OPRHP.

“OSI is proud to support the work of the West Point cadets in improving Fahnestock State Park, a landscape OSI has worked to protect and improve for more than 20 years,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Parks benefit from the active involvement and participation of our young, future leaders. Through their service, each class of cadets is leading by example and providing the park with an infusion of energy and much-needed repairs.”

“The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation relies on a range of partnerships with private organizations, volunteers, friends groups, and community members to ensure that our parks are the best that they can be,” said Linda Cooper, the Taconic Regional Director for OPRHP. “We are grateful to OSI and the West Point cadets for taking on this project and improving Fahnestock State Park for future visitors.”

The bridge constructed by the West Point cadets.
The bridge constructed by the West Point cadets.
Photo Credit: Colonel Brad Wambeke

“Over the past year, I had the opportunity to work on the Fahnestock State Park pedestrian bridge project for my capstone course in civil engineering. This project was the most fulfilling part of my experience as an undergraduate student. Working in conjunction with Open Space Institute and Fahnestock State Park, our team was able to design and build something for the surrounding community that will be enjoyed long after we have departed from West Point,” said Cadet Levi Pingrey, project manager for the School Mountain Road bridge replacements.

“I really valued the experience our team gained while working on this project. Finally being able to put concepts we had learned in the classroom to use in the field was very rewarding. I would like to thank Open Space Institute and Fahnestock State Park for their help during the past year. Without their help, this project would not have been a success.”

As part of the coursework, the engineering students designed the bridge; prefabricated the bridge foundation reinforcement cages, support beams, railing sections, and decking panels at the West Point Academy; and transported the materials to Fahnestock State Park for installation.

“Partnering with New York State Parks and the Open Space Institute for the second year in a row has been an amazing experience. Building bridges at Fahnestock is a great capstone project because it requires the students to apply what they learned in multiple courses and has given the cadets invaluable first-hand experience with managing and executing a construction project,” said Colonel Brad Wambeke, the Director of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department at West Point. “The experience of building something of this magnitude is almost impossible to replicate in the classroom or laboratory. It also contributes significantly to their professional development as engineers, while adding value to the community.”

“Service is an essential part of what we instill in young leaders at West Point. As a faculty member, it is a thrill to watch cadets apply the engineering and logistical skills they have learned toward the execution of a project that will benefit the community,” said Dr. J. Ledlie Klosky, Professor of Civil Engineering at West Point.

OSI provided more than $12,000 toward the project from its Waletzky State Parks Fund for bridge materials, while OPRHP supplied additional onsite coordination and equipment and obtained the appropriate permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The park’s West Point bridges each have a distinct style which reflects the needs of the setting and the design preferences of each class. The bridge constructed last year included an arch accented railing, while this year’s group built a flat bridge with a prominent “A” design incorporated into the railings.

These bridge replacements are part of the larger School Mountain Road trail improvement project OSI is collaborating on with OPRHP. Other future improvements to the park include trail and trailhead improvements, informational kiosks, and signage that will improve the experience of the park for regular users and new visitors.

Since the 1990s, working in partnership with the State of New York, OSI has doubled the size of Fahnestock State Park, bringing the park to more than 14,000 acres of protected woodlands, valleys, and plateaus. In 2016, OSI raised more than $1.2 million to renovate the Canopus Beach/Winter Park Complex at Fahnestock and improve trails and trailheads. OSI is continuing its commitment to this beloved landscape by carrying out critically needed repairs and access improvements so that future generations can continue to enjoy the park.

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