Tufts University pupils study Bridge of Flowers, offer class projects as resources

  • The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Published: 2/4/2022 3:41:39 PM
Modified: 2/4/2022 3:40:09 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — The Bridge of Flowers has inspired many — painters, photographers, poets, gardeners, tourists — including engineer Brian Brenner.

Brenner, principal engineer with Tighe & Bond and Tufts University professor, is partial to the Bridge of Flowers.

So much so that in 2021, the bridge inspired his course, “Bridge Design and Rehabilitation.” The work his students produced is now featured at bridgeofflowersmass.org, offering a wide array of resources for bridge enthusiasts and historians as well as curriculum aids for teachers, students and parents.

“My professional life has always focused on bridges, but the Bridge of Flowers, for me, has become a favorite,” said Brenner, who met Bridge of Flowers Committee Co-Chair Carol Angus when Tighe & Bond analyzed the bridge for the Shelburne Falls Water District. The district owns the span and the water line that the Bridge of Flowers carries across the Deerfield River.

During the bridge’s 90th anniversary celebration two years ago, Brenner was present as “the Bridge Man” to answer questions about the iconic former trolley bridge turned garden.

“The bridge has such a rich history,” Brenner said. “And now, after almost a century, it is beginning to show signs of needing rehabilitation, so it was an ideal subject on many levels — about bridge construction then and now, about types of bridges and uses, about the role of bridges in the community and about what bridges can teach us.”

His students, Brenner said, responded enthusiastically. Working in small groups they produced four projects, each focused on a different aspect of bridges but all related in some way to the Bridge of Flowers. As the students researched and designed their projects, they also offered to make the projects available to enrich the bridge’s website.

Bridge of Flowers Committee members Laurel Rollins and Jorie McLeod, former teachers, have reviewed some of the projects designed as curriculum aids for teachers, students and parents.

“It is very extensive, with a variety of materials, references and activities for a wide range of grade levels,” Rollins said. “Jorie will be in touch with Mohawk Trail Regional School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sarah Jetzon to inform her about the curriculum.”

“It was our pleasure to have met Brian Brenner and learn of our mutual affection for the Bridge of Flowers,” said Bridge of Flowers Committee Chair Annette Szpila. “Carol worked for many months with Brian and his students to make this a reality. We are pleased to offer their final projects on our website to everyone — educators and all with an interest in bridge.”

Projects include: “STEM Resources for Teachers: All about Bridges” by Danielle Kaden and Travis Van Brewer; “Introduction to Bridge Foundations” by Dylan Felty and Richard Haight; “Iconic Bridges Across New England and Beyond: When, Where and Why” by LJ Ambrogio, John DeFrancisci and Claire Wright; and “3D Digital Renderings of the Bridge of Flowers” by Talisa Watts, Christopher Hoerrner, Sebastian Sak, Jonah Tobin and Andrew Kraunelis. All projects are listed at bit.ly/3ARUnLj.


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