Two Harbors students build accessible trail
Students in Mark Schlangen's pre-engineering class at Two Harbors High School are working to make sure the nature trail behind the school is accessible for all students.
Using a program called EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service), developed by Purdue University, students in Schlangen's fall semester class were tasked with researching and designing the trail. The spring semester class took the designs and worked on aspects of the trail during every clear-weather day this spring.
"The trail was built 12 years ago by a group of students, but it was built with wood chips and that didn't work for all of our students to cross over," Schlangen said. "Engineering is best when done with all people in mind. So we wanted to make an accessible trail that everyone can use, regardless of ability."
Several changes needed to be made to make the trial accessible. At the start of the trail, there was a ridge of rocks that hindered the entrance for wheelchairs and individuals with limited mobility. The trail itself is now made with two layers of donated material from the City of Two Harbors and Lake County, which will stand up better to weather conditions.
The city rolled out the path. The students also identified low areas along the trail and installed culverts to keep the trail from flooding. Further along the trail, a bridge was designed to aid the crossing of a creek.
"There was an old bridge that was small and not wide enough for a wheelchair," student Sean McCarthy said. "So we built it wider and with two railings to help guide people through. And we used tamarack wood because it's rot resistant."
The students also redirected the trail because the original route had curves and angles that were difficult to navigate with a wheelchair.
The last piece of the project has yet to be completed: a boardwalk along the edge of a pond. The boardwalk has a start, and about half of the trail has been set. Students in Schlangen's class this fall will continue the project.
"It's been a great project to give them this practical engineering experience," Schlangen said. "But it's also important because it gets them thinking about community service. That's something they can take with them across all disciplines. They don't have to become engineers, but they can keep community service in mind throughout their lives."