Bridge removal, environmental restoration project moving forward at SMWC

January 9th, 2017 | SMWC

For safety reasons, a concrete bridge at the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was removed late last week.

Built in 1922 and located west of the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, the Lake Le Fer Bridge has been deemed unstable and irreparable by several structural engineering assessments. Originally constructed as part of an early riding trail, the concrete filled-spandrel arch pedestrian bridge was cast in several sections which have become disconnected as the foundation settled.

The bridge removal is the next step to a restoration project that includes the creation of an environmental habitat and outdoor classroom at Lake Le Fer. The project’s goal is to encourage student learning about science and math, part of SMWC’s commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

In addition to the lake restoration and the creation of a walking trail surrounding the area, the Lake Le Fer project also involves the establishment of the Oakley Innovation Academy, a summer camp for middle school girls, and the establishment of an undergraduate research program, part of the launch of environmental science major for SMWC students.

The Lake Le Fer project not only shows SMWC’s focus on STEM education, sustainability and wellness but also its continued local community outreach. The newly updated lake features, particularly the outdoor walking trail, will be available for members of the public to enjoy.

Rachel Leslie, vice-president for external relations, said the project is part of a broader beautification initiative for west-central Indiana, not just SMWC. The community-based project, supported by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, is being made possible by a grant from the Hollie and Anna Oakley Foundation and by contributions from a multitude of private and public partners, she said.

“It will be another destination location on our campus that the community can appreciate,” Leslie said. “The revitalization of the space will provide a beautiful place for students, faculty, staff and the community to enjoy.”

The goal is to complete the lake restoration and walking trail by late spring. In December 2014, the lake was drained to enable dredging and repairs, data collection on existing species and environmental preconditions, completed by SMWC students and faculty.


RELATED: Bridge removal story from July 2014 via Tribune-Star