Logan Phillips helps Noah Gathergood weld the steel support frame for his park bench, as part of a Gateway to Trades project at Eagle River Secondary, overseen by Okanagan College. Lachlan Labere/Eagle Valley News

Students build benches to beautify community

The handiwork of Eagle River Secondary students will be put to good use as part of a community beautification project.

For the past six weeks, ERS students enrolled in the Okanagan College Gateway to Trades program, being conducted at the school, have been putting their skills to use by building park benches. The park bench project came about as a request from Sicamous’ Communities in Bloom committee. Okanagan College instructor Greg Wirachowsky said the students were looking for projects and this fit like a glove.

“I was approached by Kathy Keam, who is a bus driver here, but she’s also a part of Communities in Bloom, and she was wondering if we’d be able to build some park benches for placement around the town,” said Wirachowsky. “It’s pretty much specifically for the seniors who get out and walk, but is for everyone’s use.”

Students got to choose their own bench designs and were required to provide a materials list for Wirachowsky’s approval. Materials were provided through Communities in Bloom, donated by the community.

“I believe one of the councillors for the District of Sicamous donated the steel… Irly (Parkland) Building Supplies donated the hardware and the lumber,” said Wirachowsky.

Asked if there was any competitiveness among students in the project, Wirachowsky said a little, but not much. However, it was an opportunity for students with some trades experience to further advance those skills.

“The kids, for instance, Ryan Spelay has, we call it the flagship for the class,” said Wirachowsky. “The class voted whose bench they’d like to see go forward to any town celebration of Canada 150, and they all chose Ryan’s for that. Ryan had access to these big slabs of lumber, his dad works at a sawmill, so Ryan was on it pretty much right away.

“Everybody else had a welding component, we had to go through a bit of a welding demonstration and practice before they could do it. However, Gage Golling… welding wasn’t new to him at all. He just dove into it and did a really good job.”

Working on welds to their benches, students Logan Phillips and Noah Gathergood called the Gateway program awesome, giving them exposure to a wide range of trades including carpentry, joinery, welding, plumbing and electrical.

The benches are near complete and will be provided to the District of Sicamous for placement in the community. Before they go out, students will be marking their names on their respective benches – something that appeals to Gathergood.

“I think that’s pretty sweet,” said Gathergood. “When we come back in however many years, that’s still going to be there. I kind of like that part.”

Communities in Bloom chair Deb Heap is excited by the project and the opportunity it provided to involve Sicamous students.

“A feature project that involves the youth of the community, filling a real need in the community – we are really lacking street furniture. How great is that?” said Heap.