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Air Force Academy civil engineering cadets to team with USFS on new Two Elk Trail bridge

July 9, 2021, 11:35 am

The U.S. Forest Service on Friday issued the following press release on U.S. Air Force Academy cadets teaming up with Forest Service workers to build a new bridge on the Two Elk Trail in Eagle County:

Through a unique partnership between the Air Force Academy and the White River National Forest, the Two Elk Trail will have a new bridge designed and built by some of the brightest young minds in the country.

Air Force Academy cadet Civil Engineering majors and Forest Service personnel will work side-by-side for several weeks beginning July 11 to install a bridge on the east end of the Two Elk Trail in Eagle County. The trail will remain open during most of construction, although temporary closures at the bridge site may occasionally be necessary to ensure the safety of the public and cadets.

As part of their academic program as civil engineering majors, last fall 11 cadets were accepted into a popular elective class “Civil Engineering 376 – Forest Service Bridge Design” offered by the Academy and taught by Professor Stan Rader, where they have the creative opportunity to earn academic credit and spend some time outside on public lands taking a project from design to completion.

“Due to the priceless cooperation and support of the White River National Forest staff, this unique program allows our future Air Force engineers and leaders to take a full-scale civil engineering project from cradle to grave, while providing the public with a valuable infrastructure asset that will serve for decades into the future,” said Rader.

This class is the third cohort of Air Force Academy cadets to work on a White River National Forest project.  In the fall of 2016, a previous class designed and installed a new bridge on the Maroon Creek trail in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, and in 2018 cadets built a bridge on the very popular McCullough Gulch trail south of Breckenridge. This year’s class has a different set of logistical and engineering challenges to consider and navigate over the next several weeks to bring their design to completion. The new Two Elk trail bridge, with a span of 50 feet, will be 40 percent longer than the two previous bridges that cadets designed and constructed.

“This project provides unmatched benefits in terms of the cadet’s academic development as engineers and preparation to be leaders as Air Force officers by working in an inter-agency environment and serving the public.  This particular location was chosen because the existing bridge has been slowly degrading while visitation is at an all-time high.   Our challenge this summer is to maintain maximum public access on this trail and the very busy nearby Vail Pass bike path while ensuring safe recreation.  We’ll be working closely with the district staff to make that happen.  We’re proud of the partnership and want to share it with the community so having people bike and walk by is a good thing,” said Greg Rosenmerkel, Engineering, Minerals and Fleet Staff Officer for the White River National Forest.

Partnership has made this project possible. The cadets will be staying in Vail during the project implementation thanks to a grant from the Academy Research and Development Institute (ARDI Foundation), headquartered in Colorado Springs.

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