Partnership Builds a Bridge: Natchaug Students Create Span for Spirol Campus Walking Trail

Natchaug is building bridges with the community – literally.

On Tuesday, June 10, the Natchaug Hospital Joshua Center Northeast YouthWorks program presented Spirol International Corporation chair-man Jeffrey Koehl with a 16-foot bridge, designed and constructed by the students for the company’s campus green walkway.

Spirol, a global manufacturer headquartered in Danielson, Connecticut, has been a long supporter of Joshua Center Northeast. The company’s $12,000 donation in 2010 funded the purchase of the Haulmark cargo trailer that was transformed into a portable workshop for the YouthWorks vocational skills program at Joshua Center Northeast (Danielson) and Joshua Center Thames Valley (Norwich) Clinical Day Treatment Schools.

“They got in touch with us at the beginning of the school year and told us about the new green walking trail they had added to their campus for their employees, and asked if we would be willing to build a bridge for it,” said Joshua Center Northeast Clinical Day Treatment School principal David Heg.

The materials were paid for by Spirol, but the design and execution of the project was handled by YouthWorks teacher Kevin Maines and 10 students over a five-month period, starting with a site analysis where they measured the length needed and the height above where the water flows out. Maines and the students worked with town hall and the building inspector to determine the requirements for railing height and spacing, created a material list and priced it out, looked into different designs, profiles, install techniques and types of fasteners, and eventually created a detailed plan to follow.

“The actual building process was really production style; we became very efficient. We had people set up making the balusters, people plating railings, people drilling holes,” Maines said. “The project really reinforced partnerships and teamwork, even with kids who maybe don’t really like each other.”

The finished bridge weighs between two and three tons, Maines estimates, and is made entirely from locally sourced materials purchased at Danielson-area stores including Boudreau’s Welding Company, Sigfridson Wood Products and O.L Willard Company.

“That’s really key to this whole project – itall goes back into the community,” Heg said.

For the students involved in the project, the presentation ceremony was especially meaningful.

“The students were really excited to be photographed and recognized for something they did for the community, something that they constructed themselves,” Maines said.

“The issues that bring them here kind of stay behind when they’re being recognized.”

Cassandra, who is in her first year at Joshua Center Northeast and hopes to someday pursue a career in construction, took pride in the group’s accomplishments.

“It felt good because it’s not only making us happy, it’s making many people happy when they walk across it and know that somebody put a lot of work into this,” Cassandra said.