Army cadets build Bannerman Island bridge

 A new bridge on Bannerman Island will allow tours to the summit. The bridge, unveiled last week, was constructed by 11 West Point cadets majoring in civil and mechanical engineering.

A new bridge on Bannerman Island will allow tours to the summit. The bridge, unveiled last week, was constructed by 11 West Point cadets majoring in civil and mechanical engineering.

On May 25, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, on Bannerman Island, to mark the opening of a new bridge, constructed by 11 West Point cadets majoring in civil and mechanical engineering.

This wasn’t the first time the island has benefited from the engineering students. In 2008, Donna Blakemore, one of the garden’s volunteers on the island, contacted the United States Military Academy asking if students could install a new gravity-fed watering system rather than having to take buckets of water from the river, around the island, to water the plants.

A year and a half ago, Neil Caplan, Bannerman Castle Trust executive director and founder, approached Col. Brad Wambeke and Dr. Led Klosky, of Cornwall, about the possibility of their engineering students building a bridge on the island. The cadets were enthusiastic.

A wood bridge, installed by Frank Bannerman VI, once spanned the 40-foot ravine from the north trail to the other side, leading to the island summit. The bridge was supported by two trees on either side of it. One of the wooden support beams still hangs on one of the trees and is visible from the bridge.

The Bannerman Castle Trust always wanted to replace the bridge to expand tours to the summit.

In August, the concept was presented to the students and 11 chose to make it their Capstone Design Project. All civil engineering majors are required to complete a culminating project which ties together a variety of civil engineering subdisciplines. While most students’ involvement ends with the design, these 11 cadets designed and built the bridge.

To start the fall semester, the students were broken up into three groups. Each had to design a different bridge. The designs were then judged by members of the Bannerman Castle Trust and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

One design was truss shaped and another was similar to the one constructed, but it didn’t have the arch design and a spindle-type railing as seen on the 72 steps leading from the dock. The winning design mimics some of the features of the original structure.

As with any construction project, the students needed to apply for a permit and have their bridge reviewed by a panel of professional engineers. By October they started laying the foundation.

Construction of the bridge took place over five days in April. Five cadets and Col. Wambeke lugged 6,000 pounds of lumber from the dock.

“It’s been a great experience for the cadets,” said Klosky. “They got a chance to go through the paper based design we’re so used to seeing an egineering student be able to do. Then they got to apply carpentry skills, they got to do project management, and economic analysis (cost of the total structure). They had to do feasibility evaluations to decide whether it was possible to do this.”

Civil and Mechanical Engineering students involved in the project include:  Tyler Anderson, Robin Brown, Zachary Cohen, Chris Fowler, Aedan Gould, Jacob Minyard, Kelsey Pittman, Anne Reidinger, Megan Rogers, Andrew Walther, and Mikaila Wiitanen

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Jason Kaplan