4-H Childrens Garden Monet Bridge

Monet Bridge rebuilt with lumber from campus trees

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4-H Childrens Garden Monet BridgeAs the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens celebrated its silver anniversary this summer, ongoing maintenance and repair continued for many of the outdoor features of the gardens. The Monet Bridge was no exception.

This past summer, the Monet Bridge was replaced and built using lumber from trees from the Michigan State University campus through the MSU Shadows Program of the Sustainable Wood Recovery Initiative (SWRI), a partnership between the MSU Department of Forestry, Landscape Services, the MSU Surplus Store, and the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum.

“The lumber for the Monet Bridget was from Kalamazoo Street around the river,” said Dan Brown, MSU Department of Forestry wood recovery academic specialist. “The trees were leaning over the river and had to come down.”

The trees were white oak, which are rot-resistant and good for outdoor applications, he said.

The SWRI promotes environmental responsibility and creates an enclosed loop of sustainability. After campus arborists remove trees, they undergo a three-month process of milling and drying. Then, the lumber is categorized and made into products by artisans for resale or earmarked for special projects on campus.

Additional examples of the MSU Shadows Collection can be seen throughout the MSU campus. Shadows wood was used to craft countertops in Sparty’s Cabin, benches in the Natural Resources Building and a life-sized giraffe for the IQ building.

“For those projects like the giraffe, benches and the Monet Bridge, the trees grew on campus,” Brown said. “The whole carbon footprint of the Monet Bridge is 3 miles – it never left campus. The trees grew here for 200-plus years and are still on campus and are hopefully at the 4-H Children’s Garden for another 30 years.”

Brown explained that, in the past, when trees were removed from campus because of decline, safety concerns, storm damage or construction, they were converted into wood chips, used as biofuel or sent to a landfill.

“We partner with the Beal Botanical Gardens – they’re the keeper of the trees,” Brown said. “Every tree on campus is numbered and tracked in a database. We know where the trees came from, who planted them and where they are located. We also have our own arborists who take care of the trees. They inspect for insect damage, prune and take down the trees when the time comes.”
From there the MSU Forestry program runs the sawmill and lumber kilns on campus. Two or three students per semester are responsible for all of the milling and drying. Then they partner with local artisans to repurpose campus trees into handmade, heirloom-quality works of art.

“We have wood species that you won’t find anywhere else, and therefore each Shadows item is one of a kind and tells a unique story about MSU history, including markings from lightning strikes and maple syrup tap holes.”
Since its beginning in 2014, the SWRI has been an interdisciplinary effort to develop a recovery and repurpose system for campus trees, increase urban wood educational opportunities for students, and produce lumber and create products that provide economic, environmental and social benefits to the greater MSU community.

This is not the first time the bridge has undergone construction. In 2004, the pond liner was replaced. The Monet Bridge was lifted out of place and stored for two weeks in the parking lot. 4-H Children’s Garden student interns cleaned and stripped old paint from the bridge, rescued the turtles and fish from the pond and cared for the animals during the renovations.

The Monet Bridge is one of the most recognizable features of the gardens. This bridge is an exact replica of the bridge in Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. Monet’s passion was his garden, he “painted because of flowers.” His favorites were water lilies. Horticulture is defined as the art and science of growing plants. Some of the plants surrounding the pond were grown from seeds from Monet’s garden. Nearby plants typically include calliopsis, Russian sage, flax, purple top verbena and yarrow. The Monet Bridge was originally sponsored by the Garden Club of Greater Lansing in memory of Myrtia Higgins Koppelman.