American Trail at the National Zoo

By Daniel H. Davies, CFM, Zone Manager, Upper Northwest Zone

The greatest new exhibit at the National Zoo, American Trail, debuted September 1, 2012. The exhibit is the culmination of several years of research, design, and construction in the middle of the park. In preparation for the public opening, OFMR worked in conjunction with the Zoo Horticulture Division, and several other teams to ensure the new exhibit could open smoothly.

Beyond the project boundary, many details needed attention to ensure the new exhibit could open smoothly. Three portals lead visitors to American Trail: through Elephant Outpost, another new exhibit; through Upper Bear and Anteater; and through Amazonia and Lower Bear. These latter two portals bring visitors through much older exhibits. The Zoo Horticulture Division did heroic work clearing, sprucing, “drifting” and replanting these portal areas as well as the entire top end of American Trail ahead of the grand opening. But the infrastructure was still dated at best, and seriously decaying in some areas, especially along the Upper Bear approach.

OFMR Shops at the National Zoo (Upper Northwest Zone, UNWZ), did great work to resuscitate the valley stream head, rebuild and seal old asphalt paths, rebuild historic stone stairways, reset drains that hadn’t worked in five years, re-pour concrete curbs, fabricate or repair steel railings, and scrape rust off and paint everything in sight. Deloitte volunteers helped enormously sanding and scraping steel railings. Parts of the old exhibit that survived the renovation were modified or upgraded by OFMR to blend well with the newest features. Safety enhancements were chief among these tasks, including railing modifications and masonry repairs.

As the exhibit came to life, OFMR staff (UNWZ and Systems Engineering Division) supported the operational start-up and commissioning, and participated in preparations for the public opening. The American Trail is the new destination, and the path to get there is now suitably welcoming.