Bridge Build Gallery

The Black Locust Initiative project at the Ithaca Youth Bureau Children's Garden Program brings together children, seniors, carpenters, and foresters, all sharing skills and the out-of-doors. Together they are creating a community project of local natural resources, ecologically harvested and processed.

Dave Gell, founder of the Black Locust Initiative, designs and promotes the use of black locust trees for outdoor structures, using sustainably harvested wood and designing for maximal use of the lumber, yielding benches and such that retain the natural contours of the tree. Black Locust is known for it's rot resistance, superior to pressure-treated lumber while completely non-toxic to the environment.

The project at the Ithaca Youth Bureau Children's Garden is producing the "Billy Goat Gruff Bridge" spanning a garden-side ravine, three Aldo Leopold commemorative benches, and some permanent outdoor easels, all of black locust.

The locusts for this project were on city property, and some had been cleared as part of another city project. Additionally, City of Ithaca Forester Andy Hillman reviewed the computerized inventory of the trees actively managed, pinpointed black locust trees slated for removal, and brought them down to coordinate the project.

Dierk Tirlouw, with his protable sawmill, sawed the trees into boards which were then hand-scraped and finished by children from several youth organizations, with guidance from residents of a local senior citezen community.

Natural resource specialists Ray Oglesby and Carl Leopold addressed the participants during a break in the activities. Ray spoke about Cayuga Lake, the 35 mile long body of water by which Ithaca is located. He pointed out how rare large freshwater lakes are, how much we've relied on the lake and it's fine water quality since Native American times, and how the future will bring additional pressures on the quality of the water. He also stressed that the children present would help shape how the lake is treated in the future.

Carl Leopold reminded us that we are sustained by our Mother Earth. Food is not from the grocery store, nor is heat from the gas pipe; everything we require to live comes from a healthy earth. We must take care of the earth so she can take care of us.
He pointed out that we are using our natural resources more quickly than we can regerate them. Since we are dependent on these resources, it is critical that we use them efficiently. Dave Gell's Black Locust Initiative does just that- making sensible use of local resources that would otherwise be wasted and creating artful, fuctional, long-lasting, non-toxic outdoor structures.

Susan Wiener

"I would like to thank all of the groups, organizations, and individuals who made the recent bridge and bench building projects at the Ithaca Youth Bureau Children's Garden such a success. This was a model of how to accomplish an inclusive, collaborative, environmental education project while providing needed infrastructure.

The people and organizations involved included the America Online Foundation, Black Locust Initiative, Inc., Ithaca Youth Bureau Children's Garden Program, the Youth Horticultural Apprentices, Ithaca City School District Special Education Summer School Program, Youth Employment Services, Summer Youth Employment Program, South Seneca School District, New York State Electric and Gas, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Ithacare at Longview, and the City of Ithaca Department of Public Works. Special thanks to Ray Oglesby and Carl Leopold for their thoughts on stewardship and land use ethics and to Dierk Terlouw for advice and expert sawing.

Not only did we learn about lake ecology, engineering, and sustainable forestry practices, but we also built three Aldo Leopold Commemorative Benches and a beautiful foot bridge, all made entirely of black locust. Black locust wood is a safe alternative to pressure treated lumber which contains arsenic. Arsenic is a class A carcinogen which the participants decided had no place in a children's garden or playground.

Thanks to the AOL Foundation, digital imagery from this workshop will be available on the emerging global medium so that others can use this model to enhance their own neighborhood, wherever in the world they may be."

Andy Hillman- City Forester

Here are the pictures from the aforementioned event: (Click photo to view a larger image.)

The worksite waits for people to come and work while the Youth Bureau looms in the background.The sawmill lies dormant ...for now.
Two members of the City of Ithaca Parks and Forestry sit on the beams that will become the supports for the bridge while consulting with Dierk Tirlouw, the sawyer who will be running the sawmill.
Volunteers from a variety of groups arrive and start to work on shaping wood for benches.
The sawmill begins to go to work.
The supports from the bridge wait for someone to put planks on them.
The wish of the supports is beginning to be granted.
A volunteer shapes black locust wood for the Aldo Leopold benches.
The sawmill, a powerful piece of machinery, continues to saw wood.
A volunteer from Ithacare at Longview shapes wood as the sawmill contiues to hum.
The work moves into full swing as a variety of people work on parts of the bridge and the benches.
The City of Ithaca Parks and Forestry crew members strategize with Dierk Tirlouw. Note the freshly cut boards for the bridge.
The sawmill contines to process alarmingly large chunks of wood.
Students from the Ithaca City School District Special Education Summer Camp work with Dave Gell (not pictured) on his experiment aimed at determining how much weight the bridge will need to hold.
Meanwhile, crew members prepare to start placing sections of the bridge.
Volunteers start putting together benches.
After much preparation, sections of the bridge are finally being completed. Here, a volunteer drills in a recently placed plank while a DPW crew member places more sections of the bridge.
The first Aldo Leopold bench (made from Black Locust wood) is nearing completion as volunteers work to drill in the back section.
The finishing touches are made on the first Aldo Leopold bench as volunteers admire their handiwork.
Dave Gell explains a beam deflection experiment to a group of onlookers.
City Forester Andy Hillman introduces two speakers who will educate the relaxing workers.
Ray Ogilsby educates the masses.
Carl Leopold educates the workers on the concept of the land ethic that his father, Aldo Leopold, wrote about in A Sand County Almanac.
A group of local children help Dave Hoaglin construct the bridge.
A local youth views his work from a better angle.
Volunteers work to complete another Aldo Leopold bench as the workshop draws to a close.
Coincidentally, the near-by Rainbow garden was also being worked on. The slide arrived as we were building!
The remaining workers work on finishing a few more Aldo Leopold benches in the hot mid-day sun.
Dave Gell proudly watches the completion of an Aldo Leopold bench by a member of the Children's Garden crew.