Brooke students build Beech Bottom shelter

BEECH BOTTOM – When Beech Bottom area residents and others sit down to eat or just cool off under the new shelter at the village’s Third Street Playground, they will have students from Brooke High School to thank for it.

That’s because career technical students in Ralph Smith’s carpentry class gained some hands-on experience building the shelter last week using materials purchased from the Wheeling Lowe’s.

Beech Bottom Councilwoman Becky Uhlly, who chairs the village’s playground committee, said Lowe’s also offered a discount on the materials that brought their cost down to about $2,000.

“I think it looks great, and that’s just in two days,” Uhlly said as 14 students in Smith’s second-year carpentry class and two advanced carpentry students completed the shelter on Oct. 18.

Smith said the work would have been done sooner, but the students’ efforts were cut short by rain at about 3 p.m. the previous day.

But that’s the kind of complication they will face when they enter the work force, he noted.

“This is really good because it gives them on-the-job experience,” Smith said, adding the cool temperatures and mud they encountered are typical of the outdoor sites they will find.

Mayor George Lewis said union crews will lay concrete under and around the shelter, which will be stained.

He said the new pavilion is the continuation of improvements to the playground planned in 2008.

Village officials had eyed $220,000 in renovations to the park but lacked the funds to carry them out. He said that’s why a sidewalk was extended to the top of the playground where the pavilion is being built.

In recent years new playground equipment, chain link fences and benches were installed and the basketball court was repaved and extended through a combination of grants, private contributions and village funds.

Lewis also was impressed by the efforts of Smith and his students.

“If they make a mistake, Ralph not only tells them about it but explains what they’re doing wrong,” he said.

Smith said before leaving the school for Beech Bottom, his students were given a list of tools they needed to pack for the project.

Smith said he was approached by Uhlly about the project last spring but lacked the manpower needed because the seniors in his class and throughout the school finish earlier in the year.

He said students in his class have built five 12-by-16 feet storage sheds for the school district and sets for the high school’s spring musical.

But the course’s curriculum, which involves book work and hands-on activities, allows little time for work outside school so students are involved in more projects in the classroom.

“They’ll bring in their own materials and work on their own projects,” he said, adding, “I had one kid last year who made all of the furniture for his dorm room when he went to college.”

Smith said those who complete the course may go on to college or trade school or directly into the work force.

Each may receive certification, through an examination, from the National Center for Construction Education and Research, which actually is an international organization that sets standards for the training of workers in various fields.

All must complete the ACT WorkKeys examination, which measures their proficiency in reading, math and ability to apply what they have learned in their chosen field.

“If they score well on that, it goes a long way to getting a good job with benefits,” Smith said.

Uhlly said the new shelter will benefit not only Beech Bottom residents but also visitors from many other areas. She said the park’s charm and close proximity to state Route 2 has attracted many to the park, and its other smaller shelter is used frequently.

As with the older shelter, the new one may be reserved by Beech Bottom residents at no charge and by non-residents for $25.

Uhlly said there are plans to post a plaque at the shelter bearing the students’ names.

“Maybe one day they can come here and show their kids,” she said.

(Scott can be contacted at