Category Archives: Kalama

Skate park goes green

by Pat Nelson
Reprinted with permission, The Daily News, Longview, WA 5/23/2008

  A sign stating “Tree City USA” now sits near three newly planted flowering trees at the edge of the lawn stretching gently downhill from Woodland’s skateboard park. In late April, City of Woodland employees and volunteers laid sod to convert the area surrounding the skate park from a muddy mess into a lush lawn.

I’m not a stranger to laying sod, so I was curious when I saw the pallets of healthy grass being delivered to Horseshoe Lake Park. My husband and I installed sod in our front yard in 2005 because of its ease of installation and immediate results. We also liked the idea that it would be less susceptible to weed invasion than a seeded lawn. Those were all good, logical reasons, but the main reason I wanted to lay sod was that I had done it once before, and it was fun.

My first sod-laying experience was 15 years ago when my son, Steve, bought a home. It was a hot day, and I remember being busy with the hose, watering the pallets of sod so they wouldn’t dry out and keeping the already-laid sod and the bare soil moist. Looking at Steve’s brown yard, and then at the pallets of sod, I couldn’t have predicted the rewarding transformation that took place that day, into a dense, green, healthy lawn. As Steve and I carried the sections of turf and placed one tightly against another, a beautiful lawn quickly formed. We were filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Don Schmitt, owner of Far West Turf Farm and Circle S Landscape Supplies, LTD., made the grassy slopes surrounding the skateboard park possible by donating 16,000 square feet of sod. Schmitt’s turf farm and nursery, formerly located on Old Lewis River Road, moved to its present location at 35306 NW Toenjer Rd. a little more than a year ago. The Circle S nursery also has a location in Fairview, OR. Schmitt’s grass is grown from perennial rye grass seed produced in the Willamette Valley. The Port of Woodland donated soil to prepare the area for landscaping. Before laying the sod, City of Woodland employees graded the area and then applied fertilizer and lime on top of the finished grade.

At the skateboard park this April, frequent spring showers took care of keeping the sod cool and damp during installation, and sprinklers have been keeping it moist since then. City employees and volunteers quickly learned that when laying sod, it helps to be able to touch your toes; the task requires repeated bending in order to place the five-square-foot sections of lawn on the soil. The sod is grown in meshed net for support and to aid in installation, and it is cut into sections before delivery. Installers start with the longest straight edge, and work towards irregular boundaries. They fit the pieces close together, without overlapping, staggering the sections like bricks.

One thing I like about working with sod is that it is forgiving. If you need to move a section, you simply pick it up and move it. If you need to create a better fit or round a corner, you cut it with a sharp knife, a garden spade, or shears. Rather than disposing of the scraps, you can keep them damp for possible use later in the installation. These scraps can mean the difference between finishing the project or ordering more sod.

Once sod is in place, it is usually rolled with a half-full water-weighted roller to provide good contact between the roots and the soil, and to eliminate air pockets. Conditions were too wet for using the roller, so workers placed plywood on the grass to keep the soil from being disturbed when walked on and to help the grass roots bond. Large boulders from Kalama were placed around the grassy area, separating it from the parking lot where fishermen gather at the northeast side of Horseshoe Lake.

City employees Scott Summers, Paul Trice, Mark Sarvela, Brent Shelton, Jason Sloan, and Mark Cook, along with volunteers Ken Huston and Blayden Wall, worked on the project. The sod is in place, but that doesn’t mean the job is over for city employees. In a few days, the lawn will be ready for mowing.

The new sod completely transformed the landscape around the skateboard park. Brown soil almost instantly became a lush green carpet of grass, As it turned out, this carpet was rolled out just in time as Woodlanders gathered next to the new lawn to celebrate receiving, for the very fist time, the title “Tree City USA” from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

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Filed under Horseshoe Lake, Kalama, National Arbor Day Foundation, sod, The Daily News, Tree City USA, turf farm, WA, Woodland

Lost art

Lost artBy Pat Nelson
For “The Daily News,” Longview, WA
Reprinted with permission

Fourteen years ago, a drifter named John, a talented artist, agreed to create a pastel drawing of two children believed to be from Kalama or Woodland, but John left the area before the family received the finished artwork.

I don’t know how this family met John. It’s likely that they saw him sketching on a napkin in an area restaurant. He often went into a restaurant, ordered coffee, and sat for hours creating elaborate artwork on napkins. Often, customers admired his work, and sometimes they paid him to sketch something for them. These jobs gave him enough money to move on to the next stop in his never-ending journey. He never stayed in one place very long.

My husband met John more than twenty years ago when he stopped  by his store in Longview to ask if there was anything he could paint. John agreed to paint signs on the building. That probably wasn’t the kind of painting he had in mind, but he needed money. When he finished the job, he moved on.

For the next six years, John stopped by every year or two when he was in the area, and my husband always found a little work for him. When we moved to Vancouver and opened a store there, John located us and painted our building. We took him to lunch one day, and I can still remember a man in the restaurant saying, “Oh, you’re the guy who’s painting that building across the street.” Bright yellow blobs of paint covered John’s shirt, pants, and worn shoes.

By then, we had seen some of John’s sketches, and we realized he was a very bright and talented artist by choice, and a building painter only by necessity.

 My husband, who had never met or even seen photos of his Indian grandfather, but had been told he looked like him, asked John to capture on canvas what he thought his grandfather would have looked like, dressed in furs.  After a few days of work, John showed us the unfinished picture; it was incredible, but he kept working on it until he no longer liked it, and he sold it to someone in a restaurant for next to nothing. He started again, and then once more. Finally, he showed us two pictures: one that he was happy with, and another that he considered garbage. We loved both. Today, framed and matted, they hang side-by-side in our home. We enjoy looking for the similarities and differences in the two pictures, and wondering if my husband’s grandfather really did look like the man in one of the pictures.

I was so impressed with the Indian pictures that after my daughter was married in 1993, I asked John to do a pastel portrait from her wedding picture. However, after we saw the partially-finished picture once, John left and did not return.

I thought about that wedding portrait, and was sad that it had never been finished. I didn’t expect to ever see it again. Then, one day I received a phone call from a lady in Astoria. “Did you ask a man named John to do a wedding picture of your daughter?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well, I have it here, and you’re welcome to pick it up. John left the area, and he wanted me to get this picture to you.”

 We drove to Astoria and picked up the beautiful wedding portrait. That’s when we found out John had left another undelivered picture, a pastel of two children.

“I’ll send this one with you too,” she said. “Maybe you can find out who it belongs to. John told me it’s for someone he met around Kalama or Woodland.”

 The children in the picture had probably been in a wedding. The dark-haired boy wore a white hat and tux, and the little blonde girl, not even reaching the boy’s shoulder, was dressed in frilly white. The boy stood proudly and the little girl, clasping her hands together, looked shy.

These kids would be young adults now. Their family probably gave up long ago on ever receiving the picture. Maybe with the help of The Daily News, this won’t remain “lost art.”

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Filed under art, Kalama, The Daily News, Woodland