Building a bridge together

Morrison High School students will give the City of Morrison a helping hand when they execute a plan this spring to build and replace a worn-out bridge in a local city park. The Morrison Area Community Foundation, a Geographic Affiliate Fund of the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, awarded the City of Morrison a grant to replace the foot bridge in Kelly Park.

But the grant came with one caveat.

The city will partner with the local high school to allow students to learn about bridge design, engineering, and building, as well as the process of working through city approval and regulations when building a bridge on city property. "This type of thing makes the job fun," said City Administrator Barry Dykhuizen. "It is great to see the excitement and community spirit, as well as everybody working together."

The project started when local engineer Russell Renner, the parent of a high school student, contacted the city about the idea of having the bridge replaced by the city with the help of the high school students. The city was onboard with the idea, Dykhuizen said, so Renner contacted the school and pitched the idea.

Once the school agreed and the $1,500 grant was approved, Renner started going to the school once a week to work with the students. The students have since been to the park to survey the current bridge and land while learning more about engineering principles and physics. The students have also been working on designs for the bridge and will present three options to the city council for approval. This spring, the students will construct the bridge.

"It is a good project," Dykhuizen said, adding that the existing bridge was built by a high school shop class around 1990. "So, this is the next generation of high school students completing a project like this."

Joseph Mills, part of the Morrison Area Community Foundation, said the project reaches several classes in the high school, including shop, physics and drafting. The students will benefit from the process because everything is truly hands on. "They have to go through learning how things work in the city, like meeting codes and requirements and what is legal," he said.

Many of the grants the Morrison Area Community Foundation provides benefit the community at the end of the grant process, he said, but this project is unique because of the number of entities it involves, and the learning process for students during and after the project. "It helps the kids take ownership in their community," Mills said, and it opens their eyes to not only city government but organizations like the Morrison Area Community Foundation.

The students plan to have the bridge completed by the end of the school year.

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