Beds for Violets at Washington Corrections Center: Building SPP’s newest conservation nursery!

By Conrad Ely
SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Shotwell’s Landing

Tuesday March 24, a Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) nursery crew—Carl Elliott, Ricky Johnson & I—set out for Shelton to meet with Don Carlstad, the Facilities Manager at the Washington Correction Center (WCC). We were also joined by Tom Urvina and Scott Shankland of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”; they were volunteering their time to help our labor-strapped crew undertake this beast-of-a-job. The project looked simple on paper: build twenty-eight garden beds (32’ x 4’ x 1’) in three days. However, Carl—the brains of the operation (and SPP’s Conservation Nursery Manager)—wisely left off the schematic that the beds would be sitting atop (within?) an area that inmates call “the swamp”. But that information wouldn’t become relevant until day two.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC)) that would host the Viola beds.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC) that would host the Viola beds.

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds; looked so simple on paper!

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds looked so simple on paper!

When we arrived on location, the field we were set to build on was vast and vacant, a canvas for our carpentry. After a careful examination of our blueprints, the tools were distributed and construction began. We worked slowly and deliberately at first. Our measurements were precise and each screw was carefully placed. The first few boxes involved all hands on deck as we fleshed out the most logical and efficient methods. Once we completed the fourth bed, half of the team split off to help fill in the soil as it was ferried over by the tractor load driven by Don Carlstad. By the end of day one, we had eight beds completed.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Wednesday we woke to a soggy March morning on the Olympic Peninsula. Luckily we brought reinforcements: Dennis Aubrey, Kenney Burke, and Josiah Falco of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors” program and Allie Denzler of SPP. They helped us battle the elements. Indeed, our field of dreams had turned to a wetland of inconvenience overnight. The shin-deep mud puddles were an inopportune foundation for our garden beds and the rain seemed to double the weight of our lumber as it became saturated, but we persevered nonetheless. With our finely-honed carpentry skills, we pushed forward like athletes on the gridiron, unshaken by any physical distraction. We focused solely on each repetition, working as a team to achieve something none of us could have done alone. And despite the weather, we easily doubled our output from the day before.

We worked in puddles on day two.

The team worked in puddles on day two.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

On day three we were welcomed back to WCC by the glorious sunshine and beauty of springtime in Western Washington. After working in slow motion day one, as we got acquainted with the process, and running the gauntlet day two to build twice as fast in the midst of a monsoon, day three was as satisfying a final day as we could ask for! Not only were we done with time to spare, but befitting the spring weather, we ended with more beds than we had planned: a bonus 29th box!

A tractor fills the final bed with soil.

A tractor dumps soil into the last bed.

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The process of turning a pile of fresh lumber and a box of screws into an opportunity for environmental education and restoration is not unlike the metamorphosis a caterpillar undergoes as it becomes a butterfly. With thanks to the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”, and help from our partnership with WDOC, we hope this new program will also take flight and promote sustainability at WCC for years to come!

1 Comment:

  1. Demar

    Nice job and opportunity to add more sustainabile practices and offender programs for the environment. I was a bit suprised however that there was said to have been a labor shortage to do this project. Times sure have changed since I worked at WCC.

    D

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