Open Space Institute Partners with West Point Engineering Students on New Trail Bridge at Harriman State Park

Stony Point, NY (April 21, 2022)—A pedestrian trail bridge at one of New York State’s most visited state parks is being replaced thanks to a partnership between the Open Space Institute (OSI), cadets from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC). The trail bridge replacement at Harriman marks the fifth such effort to provide real world experience to engineering students, while expanding hiking and recreational opportunities for the public.

The partnership allows the cadets to take the skills and knowledge they are learning as part of their civil engineering education and apply it in the design and construction of a replacement trail bridge.

This year’s class of civil engineering cadets are designing and constructing a bridge along the Beech Trail of Harriman State Park as part of their senior-year capstone project. The bridge replacement projects provide the cadets with hands-on design and construction experience as they pursue an ABET-Accredited degree in Civil Engineering and train for their military careers. As part of the coursework, the engineering students designed a replacement bridge for the Beech Trail and cadets custom-built prefabricated structural components of the bridge at West Point and then transported the materials to Harriman State Park for assembly and installation.

The Harriman project follows the replacement of four bridges along at Fahnestock State Park’s School Mountain Road section the Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail over the course of 4 years from 2018 to 2021.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the West Point Engineering Program at a new location in Harriman State Park. OSI is proud to support the work of the West Point cadets in improving Harriman, a landscape OSI has worked to protect and improve for more than 15 years,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s vice president of Parks and Stewardship. “All parks in New York State can benefit from the active involvement and participation of our young, future leaders. Through their service, each class of cadets is creating a legacy that improves New York’s State Parks for community enjoyment, long after the cadet classes have graduated.”

“There can be no doubt about the positive impact this kind of project has on a student,” said Dr. Led Klosky, a West Point professor who advised the project along with LTC Marc Sanborn and LTC Seth Norberg, “this kind of experience is invaluable to a young engineer.”

One of the cadets on the project, Andrew Zeidler, is a civil engineering student and shared that “Designing and building our bridge in Harriman State Park has been a fantastic culmination of our Civil Engineering studies at West Point. The pride we have as a group in our work on this project comes not only from seeing our concept become a reality, but also from meeting the people in the community that the bridge will ultimately help, which is the true joy of being an engineer in the first place."

The Beech Trail is part of an almost 10-mile loop trail that also includes access to the Red Cross Trail and the Long Path. The trail crosses several brooks and tributary streams. With the capacity to carry ATVs, the completed multi-use bridge will greatly improve access for trail users and light-duty maintenance vehicles.

This year the cadets are also being aided by Harriman State Park staff who are supporting better access to the site and aiding in the transportation of materials.

OSI provided more than $10,000 toward the project for bridge materials while PIPC is supplying additional onsite coordination and obtained the appropriate permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In total, OSI has contributed more than $50,000 in support of similar bridge replacement projects over the past five years.

Each West Point bridge has a distinct style which reflects the needs of the setting and the design preferences of each class. This year the cadets designed a 30-foot-long and 7-foot-wide ’Thru-Truss’ bridge at Harriman. Previous bridge designs include twin 30-foot steel girder bridges, a raised flat bridge with a prominent “A” design in the railing, a wooden arch suspension bridge, and an arch truss bridge with wood and cable railings.

Since the 1990s, working in partnership with the State of New York, OSI has added more than 2,000 acres to Harriman State Park. Located just 30 miles north of New York City in Rockland and Orange counties, Harriman State Park is a haven for hikers and includes more than 200 miles of hiking trails.

OSI has committed over $70 million in transactions and itself invested $20 million in this area over a span of 20 years, protecting 25,000 of the 80,000 acres of state parks in the region, include land at Sterling Forest, Harriman, Bear Mountain, Goosepond Mountain, Schunnemunk Mountain and Storm King State Parks.

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