90% Reclaimed is 100% Complete

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  —John Muir

By Scott Boylston

On December 17th, the last reclaimed board was screwed into place at the Shuman Elementary School Garden! It’s been a long journey, beginning with material reclamation projects in Savannah as long as 11 months ago (and the objective to work with Shuman in some fashion goes all the way back to June 2010, as can be seen in our original flowchart—Initiative 5). Since that time, more than 120 volunteers removed, denailed, ripped, trimmed, hauled, sanded, cut, routed, nailed, screwed, and stained reclaimed pine, cedar, and redwood lumber that was originally installed in buildings around Savannah between 30 and 60 years ago.

And the structure is but a place for students and teachers to rest as they tend to the true focus of the project: the edible garden plots for each grade in this public elementary school courtyard. The garden building volunteers have also been busy. Chatham PTA and SUGA (Savannah Urban Garden Alliance), along with the Shuman Elementary staff, teachers and students, have been getting their hands dirty, building raised beds, tilling soil, filling the beds, making rain barrels, and building fences.

You may have noticed that this post’s title references 90% reclaimed materials rather than 95%, which was the percentage of reclaimed materials we originally estimated for this project. But plans always change—especially for a project involving reclaimed materials—and even the material streams shifted once the project got underway.

In fact, we were able to locate higher quality materials that were more true to the lumber proportions necessary for such an elegant structure, and as our methodologies for such projects mature, we are devising ways in which a steady flow of reclaimed materials can flow to the most well suited project for each specific material stream. So, while some of the materials that were prepared in the earlier stages of this endeavor in the end weren’t applied to this structure, they will be used for a similar one (stay tuned!), and we found higher quality replacement materials (Jones and Taylor Street houses) to apply to this project.

We are also using offcuts of materials for other purposes on the job, and we were thrilled to see David Malpass with SUGA find an innovative way to repurpose some of the leftovers when we ripped the lap off the red cedar shiplap in order to create the decking floor boards.

Much of the resulting narrow strips of red cedar were used for the lattice work on top of the pergola, as can be seen in the first photograph below. David used some of the extra lap to weave two low-lying fences for the front garden, as can be seen in the second picture below. Now that’s thinking on your toes, and using available materials efficiently!

The garden continues to develop, with the completion of the cedar branch fence and the laying of the brick walkway still to come. A plaque dedication and ribbon cutting is not far off in the future, either, so please stay tuned.

Finally, while there are an immense number of volunteers to thank, Mark, Keith and Glenn (above, with me) must be applauded for their unrelenting dedication to the construction of this pergola, along with the design of the pergola (Keith), and the identification and hauling of the redwood and brick materials (Mark). Amazing effort!

This new structure is wise beyond its years. It has an old soul that’s been seasoned by years of experience, and it has bore witness to many things. And now, it’s ready to share all that its comprised of with Savannah’s youth.


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