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The Open Space Institute Partners with West Point Cadets to Replace Bridge at Fahnestock State Park

COLD SPRING, NY (May 8, 2018)—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 an unreliable steel plate bridge on the School Mountain Road trail in the Hubbard Lodge area of Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new bridge is planned for later this month. 

With the planning and permitting phases completed and the vegetation around the old bridges cleared, the West Point cadets have nearly completed the bridge project. The replacement bridge is along Clove Creek behind Hubbard Lodge and the Ann Odell Butterfly Garden on Route 9. A second bridge designed by the cadets will be constructed by OPRHP staff with materials prepared by the cadets.

The School Mountain Road bridge replacements are part of a capstone design course for civil engineering cadets at the USMA. As part of the course, the cadets designed two shared-use bridges (for hikers, equestrians and skiers), prepared the site, and are now finishing up the first bridge. 

“OSI is proud to support of 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. “In order to thrive as assets to the community, state parks need the active involvement and participation of our young, future leaders. Through their service, these students are 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 creative partnerships with private organizations, volunteers, friends groups, and community members to ensure that our parks are the best that they can be,” said Commissioner Rose Harvey. “We are grateful to OSI and the West Point cadets for taking on this project and improving Fahnestock State Park for future visitors.”

For the project, the cadets prefabricated the bridge foundation reinforcement cages, steel support beams, wood railing sections, and decking panels at the West Point Academy and transported the materials to Fahnestock State Park for installation. 

“The School Mountain Road bridge project is a great capstone project because it requires students to apply what they learned in multiple courses and has given the cadets 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, and it contributes significantly to their professional development as engineers.”

  • The Open Space Institute  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 an unreliable steel plate bridge on the School Mountain Road trail in the Hubbard Lodge area of Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.
  • “It is a thrill to watch students take the skills they’ve worked so hard to develop and apply those skills to the execution of a project that will benefit the community in such a concrete (and steel and wood!) way,” said Dr. J. Ledlie Klosky, Professor of Civil Engineering at West Point. “Getting out in the sunshine and swinging a hammer with the cadets is a really glorious way to spend time outside. The cadets will no doubt remember this experience and return to the bridge with pride when they visit in the future."
  • “The School Mountain Road bridge project is a great capstone project because it requires students to apply what they learned in multiple courses and has given the cadets 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 School Mountain Road bridge replacements are part of a capstone design course for civil engineering cadets at the USMA. As part of the course, the cadets designed two shared-use bridges (for hikers, equestrians and skiers), prepared the site, and are now finishing up the first bridge.
  • These bridge replacements are part of the larger School Mountain Road trail improvement project OSI has collaborated on with OPRHP. Other future improvements to the park include the creation of trailhead improvements, informational kiosks, and signage that will improve the experience of the park for regular users and new visitors.

“As a faculty member, it is a thrill to watch students take the skills they’ve worked so hard to develop and apply those skills to the execution of a project that will benefit the community in such a concrete (and steel and wood!) way,” said Dr. J. Ledlie Klosky, Professor of Civil Engineering at West Point. “Getting out in the sunshine and swinging a hammer with the cadets is a really glorious way to spend time outside. The cadets will no doubt remember this experience and return to the bridge with pride when they visit in the future. 

OSI provided $12,000 toward the project from its Waletzky State Parks Fund for bridge materials — including the steel, wood, and connection supplies — while the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation supplied additional onsite materials and equipment, and obtained the appropriate permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The Fahnestock bridge project has reminded me why I wanted to be a civil engineer. It has been incredible to experience the entire process, from our first site exploration to selling our ideas, fully designing the bridge, getting all the materials, and finishing construction,” said Cadet Sophia Schwanebeck, project manager for the School Mountain Road bridge replacements. “This project not only provided me and my classmates the opportunity to use the skills we have learned over the past four years and taught me a great deal about applying those skills, it has also made accessible a beautiful trail that serves the needs of a remarkable community.”

These bridge replacements are part of the larger School Mountain Road trail improvement project OSI has collaborated on with OPRHP. Other future improvements to the park include the creation of 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 Clarence Fahnestock Memorial 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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