Cake, applause and good wishes were shared during the grand opening of the Washington State University Master Gardeners of Benton-Franklin counties outdoor Waterfall Classroom in October.
The classroom is in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, next to the Mid-Columbia Library, at 1620 Union St. in Kennewick. The oval classroom has a cement floor and tiered seating for up to 60 people.
It will be used by the Master Gardeners for lectures and demonstrations and also will be available for the public for weddings, meetings, photos and other gatherings.
The open-air classroom sits at the entrance to the demonstration garden, which contains 26 smaller gardens within it. The demonstration garden is on City of Kennewick land and the city provides the irrigation water and maintains the grass and outdoor lighting.
Master Gardener volunteers maintain the vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees and other plants in the garden.
“Having this classroom will enhance community education and learning opportunities for generations to come,” said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young.
The classroom was a community effort with many businesses and the city contributing time and machinery.
“There were material contributions from the community, but the bulk of the materials were bought by funds raised by the Master Gardeners, who also volunteered hundreds of hours, sweat, and some blood from smashed fingers to this project,” said Marianne Ophardt, WSU Extension horticulturalist.
It sits on the site of a former fishpond and rock garden.
Pam Doctor, president of the Master Gardener Foundation, said the foundation removed the pond and rock garden because they no longer had someone available to maintain them.
“Also, the pond was quite deep so safety was always an issue,” Doctor added.
Construction on the outdoor classroom began in January with the removal of the pond, gazebo and rock garden.
“We had to move a lot of rocks,” said Arlan Gadeken, who oversaw the classroom project.
Gadeken said that during the first four months, people frequently stopped to ask where the fish and turtles were taken. Master Gardeners and some of their friends adopted many.
Construction continued through the spring and into one of the hottest summers on record.
“I’d ask if (the Master Gardeners) were canceling the work party today when the forecast was for another 105 degree day and the answer was just, no, they’re just making sure they have plenty of water,” said Ophardt.
Once the permits and approvals were in place, Gadeken said it was just a matter of “who’s going to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
Since all the labor was done by volunteers, Gadeken said he never knew who, or how many, would show up to work each day, but that they always had the people they needed when they needed them.
Gadeken said he and other volunteers set 1,200 landscaping blocks in place. The walls contain 500 45-pound cement blocks and the entire structure has 5.5 tons of rock.
“This project really exemplifies what volunteers can do,” Gadeken said.
During the grand opening Gadeken thanked many of the primary volunteers, including Tom Gronewald, Stu Freeman, Clarence Jones, David Evans and Cyd Graham and the the businesses that contributed significantly to the project.
“As a volunteer organization, we can only make these kinds of things happen with the generosity and support of our partners,” said Doctor.
Ophardt said the Waterfall Classroom will help promote the Master Gardener’s mission of educating the community about gardening.
The gazebos in the park adjacent to the Demonstration Garden are great for parties and potlucks, but were not a place they could easily conduct classes.
“The Waterfall Classroom will enhance the community education and outreach efforts on gardening and environmental stewardship that the Master Gardeners provide … it will provide learning opportunities for future generations to come,” said Young.
For more information about the WSU Master Gardener program, or to contact a Benton-Franklin Master Gardener about a garden or landscape problem, call the WSU Extension office at 509-735-3551.
Anyone wishing to reserve the classroom area can contact the Kennewick Parks and Recreation Department.
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