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Two Rivers students' arch for Snoqualmie Valley Trail a natural fit for slough

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NORTH BEND - Some Valley students have made a permanent mark on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and the Snoqualmie River.

This week, middle schoolers from Two Rivers School will unveil a steel arch they helped design, build and install near the Meadowbrook Slough in North Bend. It will stand alongside three interpretive signs on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail that tell visitors of the importance of the Snoqualmie River in the Valley's ecosystem.

"It was nice to build something that will last," said eighth-grader Bob Noonan, one of the students who worked on the project. "A lot of people walk around here so they will see it."

The arch is the last of three public art pieces commissioned by the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum, a group of cities located in the Snoqualmie Valley whose leaders gather to talk about and work on riparian health issues. The other two pieces are located in Duvall and Carnation and were built by students in the Riverview School District.

When the forum sought to commission the art pieces, Two Rivers teacher Joe Burgener thought it would be a great opportunity for the students to not only learn more about the Snoqualmie River, but to work together to have an impact on how it is perceived and appreciated.

Students at Two Rivers started to brainstorm last year on what they wanted to put at the slough. They spent a lot of time at the small pond, taking in the wildlife and the always striking view of Mount Si.

The curvature of the bends in the Snoqualmie River and of the slough itself gave rise to ideas of an arch, but not just any arch. The students wanted to create a catenary arch, a concept Burgener had been teaching them that explained the shape of an arch created by allowing gravity to pull down its center when suspended upside down. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a catenary arch.

Inside the two catenary arches are supports that bind them together. Burgener said the supports represent the different steps water goes through while traveling through the Snoqualmie River ecosystem.

"You can sit around and make metaphors all day [with the sculpture]," he said.

In coming months, the steel of the arches, presently a new metallic sheen, will rust to a reddish-brown color that will match the base it rests on. The whole sculpture, called "Water Echoes," weighs more than 400 pounds and should be a long-lasting feature to the trail and the slough.

"It won't go away," Noonan said.

Students were involved with every step of the project, right down to cutting the steel at the iron shop at Snoqualmie Middle School. Working with fellow students, and off the ideas of former students, the children of Two Rivers got to collaborate on a long-term project that took an equal amount of body and brain work.

"It took a lot of teamwork," said seventh-grader Charlene Sikos.

The importance of the watershed to the Valley was not lost to the students, either. After spending a lot of time at the site, reflecting on the design and planning for its installation, the students were more aware of the impact humans have on the water that makes life in the Snoqualmie Valley sustainable.

"We need to keep it [watershed] more healthy," said seventh-grader D.J. Coogan.

* "Water Echoes" will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Meadowbrook Slough. The part of the Snoqualmie Trail where the arch will be unveiled is located just across the street from the Mount Si Golf Course driving range parking lot.

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