Vestal schoolyard now field of dreams

By Michael Bales
Portland, OR (November 27, 2008)- A sprawling schoolyard of barren asphalt is barren no more. In a project several years in the making, 15,000 square feet of blacktop behind Vestal School on Northeast 82nd Avenue have been replaced with a grass playing field. Last week more than 400 students planted 20 trees and 576 shrubs along the grass and elsewhere on the grounds.


But their work was more than a morning of landscaping. Students helped plan the project, selected what native trees and shrubs to use, and learned how the changes will reduce storm-water runoff. “It taught them that they can improve their own environment,” says Chad Honl, a seventh-grade math and science teacher who won $30,000 in grants for the work.
An avid gardener, Honl wanted to use the space for a community garden. But the students wanted a soccer field and a place to sit. Nine metal benches were installed next to the field. Assistant principal Thu Truong says the project represents a legacy: Years hence students will see the result of their work in fully grown trees lining the grounds.
Much of the work was donated. Paul Enterline, who attended Vestal as a third-grader in 1966 and whose son Joel is an eighth-grader, removed the asphalt on weekends and evenings and planted the grass. Grants from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District paid for much of the work. The Montavilla Neighborhood Association also donated $1,000.
Urban forestry personnel with Portland Bureau of Parks & Recreation worked with the students. Karl Dawson, a forestry education specialist, says the trees are the seventh arboretum project planted at public schools in the past five years.
The playing field, covering the schoolyard’s southwest quadrant, and landscaping are just the start. Honl has another project in mind: turning the northwest quadrant into that community garden.
Related Resources:
The Oregonian- Vestal schoolyard now field of dreams
Vestal School
Friends of Trees