Parkland students making a grand entrance

CHAMPAIGN – Parkland students faced a few obstacles when they decided to spruce up the main entrance to the college.

The area around the sign at the entrance was barren with few features to inspire them. And it's very, very visible, so their work had to convey the message they wanted to send about Parkland. And it's far from water so they had to pick their foliage carefully.

"We're building a dry river bed on the north end, just rocks, because it's hard to get water out here," said Kent Johnson of Saunemin, who was working with Erik Warren of Pontiac and Kiel Castor of Mahomet on the project's retaining wall last week.

"We want it to look good all year," Castor said. "We put in a lot of grasses because they're low-maintenance and some evergreens so we have color all year."

The 26 students in Kaizad Irani's landscape construction class started by drawing up plans for a construction around the Parkland sign, and Irani then combined the best elements of all the plans into the final design.

"It's one of the biggest projects we've done," Irani said. "This entrance was nasty, and I've been itching to do it for a long time but I needed the right class and the right time. The physical plant provided the budget, and we provided the blood, sweat and pizzas."

He said the final design incorporates grasses and evergreens, adding succulents and prairie plants like coneflowers because they're all pretty tough.

"This work gives students good design experience and construction experience," Irani said. "Every major aspect of what they'll need to know in the work world is included here. It's in front of the college and it needs to represent what we do here."

The students are proud of their work on the retaining wall surrounding their garden landscape.

"I learned a lot making that wall," said Jon Chambers of Tuscola, applying liquid nails between the blocks to hold them together.

Cheri Garrett of Champaign said she was nervous about going back to college after 20 years away from school, but she said she found her niche immediately in Irani's classes.

"I think seeing the beginning and the end is the best part of it," Garrett said. "We're making a huge difference. It's the first thing you see when you drive in."

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