Minnesota Zoo Treetop Trail Project

Minnesota Zoo Treetop Trail Project

Treetop Trail at the Minnesota Zoo (photo courtesy of Minnesota Zoo)

There’s always something exciting happening at the Minnesota Zoo.

The new Treetop Trail feature – an improvement project that cleverly re-purposed the zoo’s retired monorail system into a 1.25-mile pedestrian walkway – has taken center stage at the zoo. The elevated walkway, open year-round, offers zoo visitors sweeping views of animal habitats and surrounding native forests and wetlands.

This innovative project was brought to life by an amazing team of planning, design, construction, and trade professionals. American Engineering Testing, Inc. (AET) is proud to have provided critical construction observations, inspections, and testing services that helped ensure the quality and safety of the walkway and other engineered features.

From the ground up, AET helped to prevent structural defects and failures, verify material quality, and observe construction workmanship.

AET began work on the Treetop Trail shortly after groundbreaking.

Our professionals worked alongside the construction crews, confirming that the foundations, and all the concrete, masonry, and structural steel elements were built according to the design documents and met project specifications.

The AET Construction Services team was on hand during preparations for footings and foundations at the trailhead entrance and exit ramps. In these areas, our professionals performed excavation observations and tested the density of the fill after placement. They were also present to observe installation of the corkscrew-shaped helical piers used to support the weight of the new structures, confirming that the specified torque and depth requirements for each were met.

The Treetop Trail walkway itself is composed of 400 20-foot modular sections that were individually wheeled into place. AET Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) professionals inspected the welding and bolted connections used to secure these sections to the monorail to check compliance with the design drawings and specifications.  

The Minnesota Zoo is not your typical worksite.

AET Engineer II, Brandon Newberger, a Professional Engineer in Minnesota, has been involved with several projects at the zoo, including aviary upgrades, a dinosaur exhibit, a butterfly exhibit, improvements to the tiger lair, and upgrades to the farm.

“We’re always very conscious of how our activities might impact exhibits near our work sites”, Brandon explained. “We take care to minimize disruptions to the animals, as well as to the zoo guests. We scheduled most of our work very early in the morning before visitors arrived.”

This project was also unique because of its length. Construction activities were taking place all along the trail. AET services had to be coordinated with, and scheduled around, the activities of other AET teams and other contractors.

“Overall, we are proud to have served the Minnesota Zoo on this project and honored to have worked with all the different trades in getting this job completed as smoothly and safely as possible. It’s very rewarding to have completed this project on schedule and to see how much visitors are enjoying the new trail.”

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