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Father Creates Landscape Memorial For His Scouting Son

By Lindsey Manthei O'Connor, Redi-Rock International

Wilbert Precast was honored for this project in the NPCA Creative Use of Precast Awards and for ''Innovative Project of the Year'' in the Redi-Rock International Rocky Awards. Photos courtesy of Redi-Rock International

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When 16-year-old Andrew S. Rosell's life was cut tragically short in a 2007 traffic accident, his father Ed Rosell found it fitting to use part of the settlement to create a memorial for his son.

At the time of his death, Andrew had been working to become an Eagle Scout. As Ed Rosell struggled with his grief, a friend urged him to get involved with Scouting again as a way to ''give back'' to his community. And thus launched an impressive project at Camp Cowles, a Boy Scout camp in Pend Oreille County near Spokane, Washington.

Camp Cowles was a special place for both Rosell and his son since they first became involved in scouting when Andrew became a Tiger Scout in first grade. A central feature of the 400-acre Camp Cowles was the ''fire bowl,'' an outdoor amphitheater that was built out of rough logs in the 1920s or 1930s. The amphitheater looked out over Diamond Lake and was showing signs of its age.

The Camp Cowles Fire Bowl amphitheater was installed by hand in the 1920s and 1930s and was beginning to show signs of its age. As a memorial to his son, a Spokane, Wash. man took on the renovation project that was completed in 2010.


Rosell began brainstorming a renovation of the fire bowl amphitheater area as a memorial for his son, and heard about Redi-Rock as a possible solution from a friend.

Redi-Rock is traditionally used for retaining wall projects and is known for its ability to build tall gravity walls. Each block weighs one ton and each step/cap weighs 700 pounds, ensuring that campers could not budge the blocks. Based on several other successful amphitheater projects around the country, Rosell and the camp were convinced that they made the best choice for the project. With the help of local manufacturer Wilbert Precast and the camp, the creative, new fire bowl design that would seat more than 300 people started to take shape.

Because the blocks for the project were produced using precast concrete, they have consistent dimensions. As opposed to uneven natural stone, each precast step in the staircase was a uniform height, creating easier access (and fewer falls for campers and guests). And even though the steps were manufactured, they still had a split limestone aesthetics that helped the amphitheater blend in with its surroundings. The retaining wall blocks in the design were Cobblestone textured, adding to the aesthetics as well.

To prepare a leveling pad for each row of seating, the crew excavated behind each row, removed organic material, replaced it with proper fill material, and compacted the site before installing blocks.

''The design of this project really used every product in the Redi-Rock arsenal. From retaining walls, to steps, to caps, to freestanding walls, pavers, and columns-this project had it all,'' project manager Rick Lindberg of Wilbert Precast explained.

Creating a similar amphitheater using poured-in-place concrete would have been cost prohibitive, not to mention time intensive. ''Trying to do vertical and horizontal pours, with natural textures would have been almost impossible, especially with the time constraints,'' Lindberg explained.


To create the amphitheater, Wilbert Precast produced 220 ''middle blocks'' without the interlocking knob component - so that 220 cap blocks could be placed directly atop to create benches. The staircase that ran through the middle of the amphitheater benches required 50 additional step blocks.

To begin installation, the crew first excavated existing soil and placed gravel to prepare a leveling pad for the first row of the amphitheater. The blocks were installed using a Bobcat 442 excavator and transported using a Bobcat T300 with forks attached. For the amphitheater portion of the project, the crew installed one row of retaining walls blocks, backfilled, then placed the Redi-Rock caps to create the benches. Then, they excavated behind the completed row, created a gravel leveling pad, and continued the process for each row of the project for a total of eight rows.

Creating a level, compacted surface for the stage was critical. These massive Redi-Rock pavers that measure 72 inches long by 42 inches wide by 4 inches deep and weigh more than 1,100 pounds were installed using an excavator and slings.

''We kind of built it like a pyramid,'' Lindberg explained. ''The real challenge was the soil; we had to pull out a lot of organic material that wasn't good for compaction and bring in a lot of sand.''

As a result, 300 to 350 cubic yards of fill material had to be brought in. Because the amphitheater was curved, the gap between the cap blocks was filled with compacted gravel to allow proper drainage in rain events.

The next phase of construction included installing the stage area where the actual fire bowls rest. The design called for Redi-Rock pavers here. These massive pavers measure 72 inches long by 42 inches wide by 4 inches deep for the rectangular pavers, and 48 inches long by 48 inches wide by 4 inches deep for the square pavers. To prepare the base for installation, Wilbert's crew excavated existing soil and replaced it with sand, which they compacted and leveled carefully. They then placed the pavers using the excavator and slings. The joints were filled with fine sand swept into the joints.

The crew anchored the flag poles using Redi-Rock columns that were built using 20 inches by 20 inches wide by 36 inches high column blocks. The flagpole was placed in the hollow core of the column block. Wilbert Precast also fabricated the custom archway sign that reads, ''Andrew S. Rosell Memorial Fire Bowl'' to create a grand entrance to the amphitheater.

For the lower portion of the project, a retaining wall was required to create the level area for the stage and fire pits. This portion of the project installed quickly, because the blocks stacked like giant Legos to create gravity retaining walls that relied on the massive scale of each block for structural stability.

Wilbert Precast poured custom fire rings for the project, and manufactured and installed column blocks for the base of the flag poles.

The Outcome

"Andrew would be very proud. This place meant a lot to him," Ed Rosell told the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper in 2010.

Wilbert Precast earned an honorable mention for the project in the 2010 Creative Use of Precast awards sponsored by the National Precast Concrete Association. The project also was awarded ''Innovative Application of the Year'' in the annual Redi-Rock International Rocky Awards.

''It was just such a neat project to be involved in. We were proud to be able to help create this memorial,'' Lindberg of Wilbert Precast said. ''The creative aspect of this project was phenomenal too. Taking something that's made to create retaining walls and using it to create an amphitheater was just fun.''

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December 10, 2019, 6:55 pm PDT

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