Shade and seats is what tree project is all about

One mother’s tenacity to have more shade is coming to fruition.

Vanessa Clark is spearheading a project that will see a number of new trees planted around Ponoka Elementary School (PES) as well as the installation of several new shade tables for kids, parents and others to take a break on.

“I am one of those moms that will let my kids play at the park for an extra hour after school, so I’ve ended up spending a lot of my time in the Ponoka Elementary schoolyard,” she said.

“So last spring, when we experienced above average temperatures, I really noticed there were no places to seek shade unless you hide in the school’s shadow. It was frustrating to know kids were not only lacking shade, but a true connection to nature.”

That’s when Clark started her campaign, now called Ponoka Elementary School Tables and Trees Project, which looks to add 40 new 10 to 12 foot tall trees plus some picnic and shade tables over by the playground that serves the Kindergarten to Grade 2 students.

When Clark first brought the subject up to the school’s administration, they were very supportive as was the PES parent council, who gave the thumbs up to the idea as well as provided the signing authority necessary to get work going applying for some much needed grant funding.

“I have also been working with Len Landry and Kevin Henderson from the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WPCS) maintenance and facilities,” she said.

“They have covered the preliminary costs of the stump removal and grinding of the diseased trees that were along the south fence and will also be responsible for the cost and installation of a new fence.”

Work on the tree removal was done back in March, while the planting of the new trees and installing the tables will likely be done this fall. Clark added the entire project is due to be completed by October.

With WCPS stepping up, other community groups have come forward with generous donations as well.

Clark explained that the Ponoka Kinsmen and Kinettes have put up $5,000 each alongside $2,500 from Ponoka County and a $1,500 grant from ATB Financial. There have also been a few other smaller and some in-kind donations made.

“All of these donations have made it possible to apply for a pair of grants, the Co-op Community Grant and the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP),” she added. “We are currently waiting on approvals, but I am especially hopeful we will receive the CFEP grant, which provides matching funding.”

Clark believes that, while the project is about the schoolyard, it will enhance the community as a whole.

“Given that the new trees will line Ponoka’s main thoroughfare, all of the visitors especially during Stampede will see the transformation as something refreshing,” she said.

“I love trees and any time I travel or enter a park area, I always take time to observe the beauty of the landscaping around me.

“I am excited to see it when everything is done. But most of all, I hope the students and other users will have a more welcoming and comfortable experience in the schoolyard for many years to come.”

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