The Phoenix Reporter & Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Spring-Ford arboretum project continues; no school district money needed yet


By Frank Otto, fotto@journalregister.com

Friday, December 14, 2012

ROYERSFORD — Although the Spring-Ford Area School District cleared up to $30,000 for the restoration of the memorial arboretum behind its 9th Grade Center several months ago, the project hasn’t exactly needed much of that money yet.
“We’ve used zero district dollars,” Gail Wellington told the Spring-Ford Area School Board.
Wellington was joined by Barbara Mueller, the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center’s environmental design teacher, and Daniel Clark, an environmental design student who helped lead the design of the restoration project. The three updated the school board at their workshop meeting last month.
“I have to say, this is faster than I expected it to go,” Mueller said. “A couple of weeks out there, we’re modified the soil, planted a lot.”
Western Center students have been the backbone of the restoration project, providing much of the labor and design for the project set to revitalize the area behind the 9th Grade Center.
Mueller recounted on story of the students mulching on site toward the end of the day and enthusiastically rushing around to get the job done.
“They’re running with their wheelbarrows and they’re shoveling,” Mueller laughed. “They got it. They definitely have an investment in it.”
Approximately 250 man hours have been put into the project, Wellington said.
“Everyone has just been so positive,” Mueller said. “It’s definitely been a positive outlook for your building and my school and my program.”
Clark and a student who already graduated from the school designed the plan for the arboretum, which had been neglected for several years until the school board voted to restore it at the end of last spring.
“From day one to now, there certainly has been a huge improvement,” at the arboretum, Clark said. “Everyone is learning, including myself. The class is extraordinary.”
Clark explained that the work at the arboretum has coincided well with his curriculum, giving hands-on experience in their field of study.
In addition to the standard trees they planted, Clark went through the man-made pond and stream that he helped design using things called “aqua boxes.” The boxes essentially fit into the stream and the pond area and allow for the water to flow easily and give the appearance of deeper water, but actually keep the water just two inches deep.
“It makes it safer to do it that way than a two foot stream in case a mother and a child were walking and the child fell into the pond, it would only be two inches instead of two feet,” Clark said.
Such techniques and equipment are unqiue to these students, according to Wellington.
“This is state of the art,” she said. “These kids got in on the ground floor of cutting-edge technology.”
“This year has just been amazing for us,” Clark said. “I can’t tell you anywhere else wher we’d get that kind of experience.”
In addition to the Western Center students, the arboretum will be an asset to Spring-Ford students that don’t take environmental design classes. Mueller said science classes in the district could use the arboretum as a “learning resource.”
For the restoration, the school board approved a credit line of $30,000 but Wellington has been able to fundraise enough that the project has yet to cost the school district anything.
“We can get to the money, but I figured the more things we can get donated, the quicker we can get started,” Wellington said.
Wellington estimates that the value of what has gone into the arboretum is around $182,000, but she’s gotten it for $54,750.
Continuing her efforts to secure donations from community organizations and citizens and making more effective deals, Wellington is optimistic that the arboretum will cost the district far less than $30,000, if any money at all.
The biggest concern as far as money goes now is a deck that will be installed there, but optimism remains.
“(Wellington) definitely gives 110 percent,” Mueller said. “When I said I was ready for plants, the next day they appeared. I say I need more whatever, it appears.”
“It’s just an incredible job you’re doing,” Tom DiBello, the school board’s president, told Wellington.
Edward Dressler, another board member, said he wished that other members of the community got as involved as Wellington.
DiBello said he had the utmost confidence in Wellington’s organizational skills and drive.
“When she starts on a project, she’s gonna get it done,” he said.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.