Cadets team with Forest Service to design, build bridge in White River National Forest

Cadets and Academy staff teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service for the design and installation of a pedestrian trail bridge in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness in the White River National Forest. (Courtesy photo)

Cadets and Academy staff teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service for the design and installation of a pedestrian trail bridge in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness in the White River National Forest. (Courtesy photo)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. --

An Academy class project was completed July 24 with the installation of a pedestrian trail bridge in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness in the White River National Forest by cadets, an Academy professor and staff from the U.S. Forest Service.

 

The Academy’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering partnered with the U.S. Forest Service’s White River National Forest last year to design and construct a bridge in the Maroon Scenic Loop, located in the mountainous forest terrain southwest of Aspen.

 

The Academy created an independent study course entitled “Forest Service Bridge Design,” and 11 cadets majoring in civil engineering signed up to test their skills and knowledge at bridge construction through the partnership.

 

The class was guided by Academy professor Stan Rader, White River National Forest bridge engineer Shae Kosmalski, and the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District recreation program manager, Martha Moran. Last August, the group surveyed bridges on the Maroon Scenic Loop to start the planning and design process.

 

“Through this project, not only did we get some real-world, hands-on experience with civil engineering, but we got to help the community, conserve our National Forest and its accessibility so that all may enjoy it for years to come,” said Cadet 1st Class Kyle Barboza.

 

With the construction site located in the wilderness, cadets had no power tools to work with, and had to carry all tools and construction materials a half-mile on foot, which affected their design. 

 

“They had to apply the principles and techniques used in structural, geotechnical, environmental and construction engineering in a manner that can be significantly more interesting than working problems from a textbook,” Rader said. “The frosting on the cake is the fact that this project is located in a spectacular national treasure: the Maroon Bells- Snowmass Wilderness. The only down side is that now that the cadets have experienced the Forest Service ‘classroom,’ the walls and ceilings in their Air Force Academy classrooms may seem drab indeed.”

                                 

The bridge that was replaced was still serviceable, but needed replacement due to the large and ever-increasing number of visitors coming to the Maroon Bells each year. As federal budgets decline and a large portion of the U.S. Forest Service budget is spent fighting fires, partnerships like this are a way to continue to provide safe recreational opportunities to the public, said Greg Rosenmerkel, engineering, minerals and fleet staff officer for the White River National Forest.

 

“There are so many positive things resulting from this course” Rosenmerkel said. “The Air Force, as well as most other federal agencies, work in an increasingly joint- and inter-agency environment and this project gives the cadets an opportunity to learn about another organization dedicated to serving the nation. Further, they will have to design for not only expected loads and cost constraints, but also they must design within the parameters of techniques and materials allowed in an area declared wilderness.”