Students and community members begin work on Hartford trail

by Lex Kang and Mika Jehoon Lee | 11/1/17 3:00am

Five students enrolled in Engineering Sciences 89, “Engineering Design Methodology and Project Initiation” have started engineering work on a project to build a walking trail connecting the Latham Works Lane neighborhood with downtown White River Junction. ENGS 89 and ENGS 90 are the first and second unit of a two-term course sequence, respectively.

Jessica Link ’17 Th’18, who is enrolled in ENGS 89, said students taking the course every year collaborate with communities in the Upper Valley on projects. Since the start of this term, Link said she and her classmates have been working with community organizer Cat Buxton to come up with an engineered design plan for the proposed trail.

According to Link, her group has spent a lot of time mapping surfaces to help reduce flood risk of the trail.

“We are doing a lot of mapping ... and seeing if the amount of runoff that would come from an intense rainstorm would ruin that trail, cause erosion,” Link said.

Eliza Hoffman ’17 Th’18, who is also taking ENGS 89, said the engineering students have been actively conducting field work for the project.

“We are doing surveying of the riverbed to essentially creating a hydrological model, so we can look at the river flow at different points in the year and different frequencies of flow,” Hoffman said. “We have had beautiful weather to get out there, so that has been nice.”

Link said she hopes the engineering design plan can give the White River Junction community a good start on constructing the trail within the next few years.

In addition, Hoffman said this project will help her group gain hands-on experience in what they have been learning in the classroom, which she believes is very important.

“It is a very real-world kind of situation, we are consulting for our client, who in this case is a community group,” Hoffman said. “Gaining that relevant work experience before we graduate is really important.”

Buxton said she decided to work with Dartmouth students after her colleague at the Thayer School of Engineering recommended them to her. She added that some phases of the project have turned out to be more complicated than expected, but their difficulty has motivated and appealed to students.

“[A few phases] are more complicated, what we found to big problems were actually a part of what made it exciting for student engineers because they don’t want to take on a project that isn’t challenging,” Buxton said. “So our project provided some good challenges for them.”

According to Link, this trail has been proposed for about 10 years, but it has been on hold for various reasons such as insufficient support. Buxton said that the neighborhood could not afford the high cost of hiring engineers. However, there has been community-wide support to obtain grants to fund the project, and after applying to have the walking trail project become a student project for ENGS 89, Buxton received a fee waiver. As a result, the engineering services provided by Link, Hoffman and their group members is free of charge.

According to Buxton, the Hartford Riverwalk, the proposed walking trail, will facilitate community members’ access to the confluence of the White River and the Connecticut River as well as recreational opportunities downtown. Hoffman added that it would beneficial for residents in the White River Junction to be able to explore natural spaces much more easily.

Buxton said many residents in the White River Junction, especially business owners near the White River, support the project. However, she said that there is a landowner who is not supportive of the project. She said there is a possibility that the trail could circumvent the landowner’s property, but the landowner’s concerns could become a future challenge if the original conceptual plan ends up being implemented.

Hoffman said the people that her group members have spoken with have been largely supportive. She said her group is aware of the landowner “who is less than enthusiastic about [the proposed walking trail],” but that they will be more focused on the engineering aspect of the project.

Hoffman added that her group will work on the walking trail until the end of this coming winter, after which White River Junction will be responsible for finding contractors who would be willing to work on the project.