2017-03-16 / Living

Oaktree greenhouse gets new life

Goodrich high school athletes learn patience, skills refurbishing building
By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com


Above, before beginning work last November, the greenhouse was in sorry shape. Above, before beginning work last November, the greenhouse was in sorry shape. ATLAS TWP. — When many people see an eyesore in their community they might complain to family and friends or speak out at a municipal meeting, but three Goodrich teens decided to take it upon themselves to do something about it instead.

The three Goodrich High School students, who were also cross country athletes, ran by an abandoned greenhouse behind Oaktree Elementary every day during their active season, noticed the disrepair and when the season wrapped up, decided to look into doing something about it.

Their coach, Al Warden, who also serves as a para-professional for the district mentored them through the process of assessing what they needed to do and determining if it was even feasible. There was a great deal of broken material, rotten wood, broken frame bows and doors, broken furnace and an obvious drainage issue.


Left, by December, the crew had a little shelter from the elements with the exterior being almost completed. Left, by December, the crew had a little shelter from the elements with the exterior being almost completed. The three athletes, Daniel Wood, Evan Bierkamp, and Jared Hernandez were very enthusiastic about attacking the project from start to finish, Warden said in a presentation to the Goodrich Board of Education last month.

They approached Superintendent Ryan Relken who was then the Oaktree principal to ensure if they made the effort, the greenhouse would be incorporated into the curriculum. Once they got the go ahead, it was all hands on deck and in addition they had assistance from many local people including resident and electrician Kevin Smith and DM Burr Mechanical who donated a new and improved furnace.

Operations Director Craig Hart helped with purchasing supplies by using the power of the schools discount status to lower the costs of replacing much of the broken parts. The team worked with Ric Adams, a retired Goodrich teacher who was very active with the greenhouse in its previous life and was an invaluable resource in their restoration efforts.


Below, side by side before and after look at the interior shows the dramatic difference of the greenhouse. 
Photos provided Below, side by side before and after look at the interior shows the dramatic difference of the greenhouse. Photos provided Hortmark greenhouse supplies, who had provided the original greenhouse parts, ended up being the cheapest supplier and another source of important information for the project. Warden added, “The parents of these young men are to be thanked, and of course, Mrs. Warden, my wife.

Evan Bierkamp said, “We ran by this every day for practice…it looked like a pile of junk. One of us brought it up and wanted to do something about it, so we told coach and he mentored us through process. Because of the scope of the project, the school allowed them to turn it into a three person capstone project.

Starting last year, and working in freezing winter temperatures, one of the biggest problems was figuring out and repairing the drainage issue. It required removing the flooring, digging a 10-foot trench, adding pea rock and replacing a drainage pipe which had broken.

Additionally, they machined or hand-crafted parts where they could to cut down costs. Updates are planned for the spring and donations are needed towards those improvements. A thermostatically controlled gable fan was replaced, they built and installed new doors, repaired the louver vent at one end, replaced all the plastic and many other updates as well. Warden said the total cost, not including donations, was $3,006.

The young men said they learned persistence, patience, different kinds of building, how to do some skilled trades work, including some electrical which was very challenging. They all had different time commitments but still managed to work every spare minute they could on the project they added.

Superintendent Relken praised them for their work and leadership in finishing the project and expressed his appreciation for them solving a problem instead of just saying something should be done.

The greenhouse was originally built about 18 years ago and had been damaged in a 2012 wind storm and according to Warden the 2014 tornado finished it off. As it was used in the past, the plan is to have students use it for hands-on science as well as to grow plants for Mother’s Day gifts.

Other persons who helped are Athletic Director Dave Davis, Middle School Prinicpal Kapeka Von Keltz, Oaktree Secretary Michelle Virden and James Jacobs of DM Burr Mechanical.

Relken praised Warden, stating he has always been about service to his community and is a veteran of service to his country having served in the United States Navy before retiring coming to Goodrich. Besides being the high school cross country coach for many years, his work as a paraprofessional finds him helping the district out in many ways, from traffic control to classroom assistant. “Al is the type of person whom when he sees a problem, he doesn’t complain about it or wait for someone else to solve it. He gets working on a solution and his positivity attracts others who want to help,” Relken said.

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