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Conservation efforts transform Westside courtyard

The Westside Elementary School courtyard has a brand new look thanks to the addition of several new trees and a variety of other conservation efforts that have converted the area into another fun space for students to enjoy when it is nice enough to be outdoors.

The courtyard had been overridden with weeds, and former instructor Hazel Houkom, always strong on conservation endeavors, thought the area should be developed with grass and trees "so that the students could enjoy being outside for fun activities and projects, learning about the growth of different trees in their environment, and the importance of trees essential to everyday life."

Consequently, Houkom, who retired at the end of the 2005-2006 school year, made this a personal commitment and started work on the area in the spring of 2006, completing the task in the fall of that year.

Monetary contributions making the project possible were provided by Westside PTA, Western State Bank, State Bank & Trust, Sandy's Donuts, and Hazel Houkom, using funds from the Presidential Award in Science she received in 2004.

As a culminating point of all the hard work, a special 'tree' dedication ceremony was held Monday, May 7, recognizing the five different varieties and the contributing sources - a Prairie Spire Ash, Western State Bank; a Red Splendor Crab, Westside PTA; a Boulevard Linden, Sandy's Donuts; a Mancana Ash, State Bank & Trust; and a Sienna Glen Maple, Hazel Houkom.

The program consisted of music instructor Barb Eidenschink leading Curt Anderson's class in song; and special accolades to those helping make the project a reality: City Forester Yvette Gehrke, who initially coordinated tree planting efforts; Westside Principal Carol Zent, for allowing the project to proceed; Todd Weinmann from the NDSU Extension Office; Sharon Bartels of the State Forestry Department; and sponsors Brad Jacobson from Western State Bank; Todd Zabel from State Bank & Trust; and Sandy and Donna Ostlund from Sandy's Donuts.

Houkom also extended a special thank you to Larry Peterson of Peterson Tree Moving, Inc., who assisted with securing sod for the site and in ordering the trees; her husband, Irv, who worked with Gehrke to make the signs for each tree and helped lay sod; Westside teachers who helped one evening to complete the sod laying process; and custodians Steve Krone and Carla Brewer for watering the area.

Houkom said she is receiving all kinds of positive feedback from staff regarding the beautiful new area. "I wrote to say the view out my window is much more pleasant, thanks to you," stated instructor Sandra Howell. "The trees look great, such a nice size. Thank you Hazel for such a wonderful gift to Westside. I know the school and teachers will appreciate it for years to come. I know I am going to enjoy it this year."

Teacher Daniel Ray agreed. "Thanks for your efforts to make my view as pretty as a picture."