Iowa City Teen Builds Bridge as Part of Eagle Scout Project

"My dad and I made the blueprint, took it to a professional architect to make sure it would be safe and then we went to work," said the Scout.

📅   Tue June 09, 2015 - Midwest Edition
ZACH BERG - Iowa City Press-Citizen


Image courtesy of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.  Jace, a 15-year-old Boy Scout out of Troop 212, got the idea to build the bridge early this year because members of his troop had built bridges for Hickory Hill before.
Image courtesy of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Jace, a 15-year-old Boy Scout out of Troop 212, got the idea to build the bridge early this year because members of his troop had built bridges for Hickory Hill before.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - When Tom Werderitsch II of Iowa City heard his son, Jace, wanted to build a bridge for his Eagle Scout project, he had no idea how big the project was going to be.

Six months and more than $12,000 later, a 5-foot-tall and more than 16-foot-long arched wooden bridge stands in the northeast corner of Hickory Hill Park thanks to dozens of vendors, thousands of volunteer hours and more than 20 tons of rock, the Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://icp-c.com/1IijOXL ) reported.

”It’s been described as ambitious since the beginning, and that’s putting it lightly,’ Tom said. ”Nothing about this project has been small.’

Jace, a 15-year-old Boy Scout out of Troop 212, got the idea to build the bridge early this year because members of his troop had built bridges for Hickory Hill before. In fact, they were replacing one that had been built by a Boy Scout, but had been washed out after a heavy rain in April.

”My dad and I made the blueprint, took it to a professional architect to make sure it would be safe and then we went to work,’ Jace said.

Before construction of the project could actually begin, the father and son had to seek approval from the city of Iowa City, including parks and forestry superintendent Zac Hall.

”We thought it was a great idea from the day we heard it,’ Hall said. ”We offered manpower, help, additional funding, but Jace really grabbed this by the horns. He did all the fundraising, he was responsible for a lot of the work and organizing.’

Then, all the materials had to be collected. Lucky for Jace, his father is the vice president of the Iowa City construction company Selzer Werderitsch Associates. With Tom’s connections, the father and son visited dozens of vendors to ask for donations, discounts or time to help build the bridge.

Overall, 50 vendors helped supply the project from the wood and nails to the food and beverages that helped fuel the volunteers. The original estimated cost of the project was $7,000, Tom said, but it ended up ballooning to about $12,000.

Tom said that with the help of six other Boy Scouts, and 18 mostly adult volunteers, more than 1,000 hours were put into the bridge, mostly on weekends.

Adam Holmes, a 12-year-old Iowa City Boy Scout in Jace’s troop, helped May 16. Though he was too young to use power tools, he carried rocks that would form a foundation for the bridge and did countless other small tasks.

”It feels good to put in work on something that’s going to be around for a long time,’ Holmes said.

Tom and Jace put in more than 350 hours of work each, Tom said, with the two often meeting after they got out of school and work. ”I think Jace has a bit of pride going into this bridge, and he should,’ Tom said.

Hall said the bridge lifts a real burden off the city. For the first time in a long time, Hall said, the city will be able to transport equipment directly to the northeast corner of the park by using the newer and wider bridge.

”I know we will be continuing to work with Boy Scouts and other organizations like that in the future,’ Hall said. ”It helps us engage with the community on a different level, which is something we should be doing more of.’

While smaller tasks remain _ like mulching the trail up to the bridge and putting the bridge they replaced in a new location _ most of the heavy lifting is done.

Jace said he’s excited to visit the bridge over its expected 20 to 30 years of use, but he may cherish becoming an Eagle Scout just as much.

For future Boy Scouts, however, Jace’s bridge project may be a little daunting.

”You always want to try to do something bigger than the scout before you,’ Holmes said. ”I’m not sure it’s going to be possible to top this bridge.’