Benched: Hancock students help KLT by making park benches

HANCOCK – Students from Hancock Central High School will be helping nature lovers rest a little easier at some of the Keweenaw Land Trust’s preserves.

Gary Mishica’s advanced industrial technology class designed and fabricated 10 benches for the Keweenaw Land Trust, which will place them at its Boston Pond and Paavola Wetland preserves. Those areas are having improvements done for their parking areas, trails, informational kiosks, and some viewing platforms.

Mishica says the class looks for a community-minded project each year.

“This year, the Keweenaw Land Trust came to us and said, ‘Could you help us with the building of our benches?’ I said, ‘Sure, we’d be glad to help you out,'” Mishica said.

The KLT works with local schools through the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, said its executive director, Evan McDonald. It had already worked with students from the middle and high school for the Paavola Wetland Preserve, for which Mishica’s wood shop class made some wayfinding signs.

McDonald hopes there are more opportunities to work with the class in the future.

“It looks like they’re really solid,” he said. “I think they’ll hold up for many years. That was one of the main goals – a very durable, usable bench.”

Funding for the work came through the National Scenic Byways grant project, for which the KLT partnered with the Copper Country Scenic Byway Committee. Improving the accessibility of the two sites is one of the KLT’s long-term goals, McDonald said.

The project involved eight 8-foot and two 10-foot benches. Students handled all aspects, from routering and welding to branding the bench with the Keweenaw Land Trust logo. The class worked off and on during the semester, sometimes devoting days or a week at a time.

“It was quite a project for us to do all the work involved to produce this so the community would have a place to sit when they’re out at these locations,” Mishica said.

Students interviewed Friday said it was a worthwhile project.

“I thought it was a pretty good idea, because I go to those places every once in a while,” said 10th-grader Garth Bekkala.

Students rotated through stations, handling a number of tasks. Jayden Ollanketo, also in the 10th grade, did welding, grinding and sanding. The project went smoothly, he said.

“It shows the community what we can do here,” he said.

The permanence of the work appealed to 10th-grader Jack Fenton, who said it’s something their children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy. He’s already made sure one generation has.

“I actually took a nap on one of them during one of my study halls,” he said. “They’re pretty nice.”

Garrett Nesse can be reached at 906-482-1500. His email address is gneese@mininggazette.com.