Grass-roots effort beautifies Gateway

Frank Pfeifer, landscape director for Gateway Canyons, designed a new look for the Gateway School’s recreational field, which had once been nothing more than dry desert ground and noxious weeds. Through the effort of the community and with the assistance of Gateway Canyons Resort founder and Discovery Channel creator John Hendricks, the school has a grass field for the first time in its existence.

Brenda Watson wanted her kids to come home with grass stains.

It would be a nice change, she figured, from the skinned knees they got playing in a rock and dirt field west of their school in Gateway.

The field filled with goat’s head thorns, a piece of playground equipment and a semi-usable baseball field were the only places Watson’s eighth-grade son and third-grade daughter could spend recess near the rural school at 42575 Colorado Highway 141.

Watson felt the kids deserved a softer place to play. So, she asked Gateway attorney John Williams if his client, Gateway Canyons Resort founder and Discovery Channel creator John Hendricks, would be willing to help create an irrigated grass play field to replace the dusty gravel field next to the school.

“I figured the worst thing he could do was tell me no,” Watson said.

Instead, Hendricks said yes and agreed to donate water routed from an irrigation ditch used by Gateway Canyons. He also donated irrigation equipment and a pump and paid some of his resort employees to plant the grass and install equipment.

Gateway Canyons Landscape Director Frank Pfeifer designed the field’s new look and rounded up a few more donations to make the project complete. B&B Electric hooked up power to the irrigation pump for free. Mesa County donated $1,000 worth of compost, and Grand Junction Pipe & Supply delivered the compost to the school without charge.

Jim Hubbard of Hubbard Construction in Gateway broke up the rocky ground, so the grass could be planted over it. Students and parents from the school’s parent-teacher organization helped remove rocks left over after the process. Hubbard, a 1960 graduate of Gateway School, was proud to help.

“It looks nice. That’s the first grass that school’s ever had,” Hubbard said.

Pfeifer said kids are buzzing about having grass to play on when school starts next month, and he has received many compliments about the work, which wrapped at the end of June. School District 51 paid nothing for the project that would have otherwise cost the district between $23,000 and $24,000, Pfeifer’s estimates.

“It’s kind of nice to have local people come together to help out when other schools were being cut back” due to $13.6 million in District 51 budget cuts for 2011–12, Pfeifer said.

Williams said Gateway is the kind of place where everyone is invested in the school, which made it easy to get community members interested in improving the grounds.

“The school has always been the centerpiece in town. A lot of folks take pride in it,” he said. “It started as an ask for water and exploded into a community deal.”


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