Orange County Branch Newsletter

December 2014

President's Message

ASCE is Committed to Helping Our Community

By Gary Gilbert, PE, GE



I had the opportunity to be a team leader for the Engineers Without Borders - USA Orange County Professionals (EWB-USA OC) Honduras water project prior to joining the ASCE OC Branch board of directors.  Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges we faced was finding Civil Engineers to assist with the projects.  Since joining the ASCE OC board we have been outreaching to EWB-USA OC on how we can work closer together and hopefully get more Civil Engineers to participate in their program.  We want to bring the positive experience of working on projects to help communities to Orange County.

The ASCE Orange County Branch Younger Member Forum (OC YMF) has had a successful community service program for over 10 years.  They have participated in events from Rebuilding Together and Corazon that have had a substantial positive impact on peoples’ lives.  OC YMF usually partners with other organizations on their community service program, but the events have typically been one-day activities.  The OC Branch is planning to build upon the success of what OC YMF has accomplished and outreach to our contacts in the industry to hopefully develop long term community service programs where we will have multiple  opportunities for members to help local communities.

This year an opportunity has come up for the ASCE OC Branch to partner with EWB-USA OC on a local project to evaluate and potentially retrofit four existing bridges at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park (Safari Park).  The bridges were originally constructed for a now abandoned Wgasa Bush Line African Tram monorail system.  The objective is to improve the existing bridges by adding railing to meet ADA compliance and potentially support passenger vehicles for transporting disabled visitors to attractions at the Safari Park.  Under the leadership of our new Community Service Chair Greg Henk, PE, we are moving forward with the evaluation phase of the project.  We are currently looking for structural and geotechnical engineers interested in assisting with the initial evaluation of the bridges and assist in developing a scope for the future modifications of the structures.

The Safari Park has multiple projects where Civil Engineers could provide assistance and we hope to make this an ongoing program with EWB-USA OC where ASCE OC members can help out locally. We are also in early discussions with ASCE San Diego Section and EWB-USA San Diego to potentially partner with us on this program.  We are also looking for opportunities to allow members to bring their families to volunteer so members can spend some time assisting with a community service project and then finish the day with fun at the Safari Park.

The goal is to provide programs locally for ASCE and EWB-USA members to participate in if they don’t have time to travel. We also want to develop local programs to increase the comfort level for Civil Engineers to confidently participate in community service programs and potentially get involved with EWB-USA’s international programs.

In addition, the ASCE OC Branch has been looking for community service projects in Orange County that will help communities in need.  Penny and I met with HomeAid in November and found that this organization purchases and improves existing structures to create shelters for the homeless here in Orange County.  With these type projects they could use the assistance of civil, structural, and geotechnical engineers on a regular basis.  They are currently looking for a structural engineer to evaluate an existing structure and a civil engineer to assist with site drainage improvements.    

During the meeting with HomeAid they mentioned several firms that are members of ASCE and we are looking to talk with companies who already assist with HomeAid to see if there are opportunities for multiple firms and ASCE to team on a project so we can potentially accomplish more together.  We would like to have several events where members could participate and potentially bring their family to help repair or build shelters.

I enjoyed being a part of the EWB-USA OC Honduras team that helped to improve the lives of people in that country.  However, lately I have found it challenging to commit  the time to  be regularly involved in the EWB-USA international programs since it often involves traveling to the project locations.  I would like to work with the members of ASCE Orange County Branch to have a positive impact with communities locally and develop a community service program at the ASCE OC Branch.  Ideally, with the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park and HomeAid we will have  programs that helps people in need, allows for members to bring their families and friends to participate, and raises awareness with the public regarding what Civil Engineers do to improve the quality of life for everyone.  If this new community service program appeals to you, please contact me [email protected] or [email protected].

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