A bridge has been rehabbed at Starve Hollow State Recreation Area, thanks to a partnership between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and EcoVantage LLC.
That bridge, located on the 0.66 mile lakeside loop trail, will serve as a pilot project for the state.
"This is our first project to build in a structure using thermally modified wood on state property," said Chris Gonso, who is the hardwoods program manager for the state.
The project used about 800 board feet of 1.5-inch thick ash lumber from Indiana state forests. The lumber was thermally modified by EcoVantage, which is located in the DeKalb County town of St. Joe in far northern Indiana.
Thermal modification allowed the rehab project on the outdoor bridge to use natural, local wood without chemical preservative treatment, which limits potential environmental contaminants that can be associated with traditionally treated lumber.
The technology combines heat and steam to turn wood into a new and improved outdoor construction material which is highly weather resistant, resistant to insects, mold, rot and decay. The wood also is lightweight, strong and durable and non-toxic.
Thermal modification technology is still relatively uncommon in the United States but started in Finland and has been widely used in Europe, Canada and Russia for decades.
“The project also showcases the use of local, sustainable building materials and local hardwood industry,” said John Seifert, director of the DNR Division of Forestry.
Gonso said there is a definitely an added cost to to use thermally modified wood.
"I think we want to have some test sites to see how the thermally modified ash performs and make it visible to the public at the same time and get some exposure for the process," he said.
In the past, the state has donated wood from state forests to architectural design students at Ball State University so they can practice using it to build furniture and in other applications to see how well it works, he said.
Carlyle Holman, one of EcoVantage’s owners, said the process was first used in 1990, and EcoVantage first started using it in 2007.
The company does custom work for people who bring in wood for a project. Over the years, as many as 150 species of wood have been thermally modified by the company.
Indiana’s hardwood industry contributes more than $10 billion in annual economic impact for the state.
Visitors are encouraged to visit the rehabbed bridge along Starve Hollow State Recreation Area’s lakeside loop trail. That .66 mile trail lies at the upper region of 145-acre Starve Hollow Lake.
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For information about EcoVantage LLC and thermal modification of wood visit ecovantagewood.com.