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Mountain Valley requests help with greenhouse project

Part 1:
Mountain Valley Developmental Services, a social services organization based in Glenwood Springs, is looking for volunteers to assist with their latest project. Updates need to be made for one of their greenhouses, to make it more functional for those with mobility aids. Hollis Vanderlinden and Rachel Bechhoefer-Sundew both work in the Greenhouse, and they say that there are plenty of different ways community members can contribute to the project. Here's Rachel Bechhoefer-Sundew.
"We will be needing help with the actual application of the lightweight cement onto the foundation of these beds, as well as irrigation. The not glamorous part, but that's what I'm working on now, a repair of the, uh, the main lines. And we're going to fill them with soil, we're going to plant them. Yeah, fill them with soil.
And then these cement beds I think Hollis talked about. We're going to have a big work day. And we're going to decorate them all with beautiful mosaic patterns with mountains and trees."

Part 2:
Often considering accessibility improvements is now part of the process when making changes to a space. That is even more a priority for Mountain Valley Developmental Services, a social services organization based in Glenwood Springs, that is putting accessible changes to the forefront in one of their greenhouses.
Tucked into a South Glenwood residential area, Mountain Valley’s property boasts two greenhouses, in addition to their administrative building. 
Greenhouse employee Hollis Vanderlinden explains some of the updates their team hopes to make to one of the greenhouses, while strolling past the resident chickens and freshly-cleared ground. 

"One thing that we're keeping in mind is a raised bed height that works best for like walkers and wheelchairs and people seated. We're actually doing like a variety of height. Like you'll see over here, this one's 17 inches and these are 32. And that kind of allows for folks to work on different parts of plant care.
So like, for example, with the shorter beds, if we have tomatoes in there, then the trellising and pruning is at working height. And then with the taller beds, then the actual soil surface will be more at working height. So like weeding, direct seeding, things like lettuce or radishes. whatever is more at an accessible height."

Vanderlinden says that bringing the planting surfaces off of the ground, is only the beginning. The beds will have a wire structure inside and a terracotta stucco to help form the uniquely wavy shapes that the team wants to achieve.

"The wavy beds are intended to provide almost a keyhole style bed where you could actually pull a wheelchair or walker up into space that is more encompassing of where you're sitting. So like you could actually sit inside of one of these wavy areas and be able to reach a little bit more than you would if it was just a flat surface.
Like straight sided then and we kind of did this more organic wavy design as opposed to something that was a full keyhole because I did hear from people gardeners that use wheelchairs that a full keyhole which is like something you'd pull completely into and then it would be encompassing like 180 degrees of your body.

It's actually more dangerous because I need when you're pulling backing out of that space. So these are intended to be a little bit more, you know, you're kind of pulling into it, but not necessarily being, uh, as surrounded. "

Even the floor materials make a difference in safety and functionality.

"So if you've ever been at a national park that has like 88 accessible pathways, that's kind of the material we're going for.
So it's like, it looks a lot like gravel, finer gravel, but it actually compresses into a surface that the individual pieces of gravel aren't moving around. Um, but it's. It's still permeable to like water. So cause typical gravel, like if you're putting a wheelchair through it, the gravel builds up in front of the wheel and kind of creates a barrier.

But this will be something that it like compresses, but it's not like concrete so that it doesn't cause an issue of um, water drainage. So it's kind of in between concrete and gravel. Um, so it has the, yeah, the compressed quality of concrete, but the permeable quality of gravel. And it's. I don't know exactly the name of it, but we're calling it Trail Mix 'cause it's like for trails."

Another bed in the back of the room will be more of a trough style, so that sitting employees can pull their legs directly underneath it while they work.
As they motion to a person working in one corner of the greenhouse, Vanderlinden says that it is important to Mountain Valley to have their community members and more involved in the project

"You can see one of our folks back there working on one of the raised beds. It's just been a really cool experience to have our employees and, you know, our individuals with disabilities be able to participate in the building of this space and have a lot more ownership over it and just feel like they've done something really cool, like being able to build something like this.
I think we'll give them a lot more buy in into what we end up doing in here, you know? It's like, 'you guys helped build this. It's built for you, and like, what do you guys want to plant in here?' And a lot of these beds will also be designated for more like therapy kind of stuff, so like, folks will just be able to plant whatever they want in some of these beds, and so that's really exciting, because we don't really have a designated space for that right now."

Volunteer dates for the project are Friday, April 26th and Saturday, April 27th. Interested participants can email or go to their website and send in a contact form, specifying greenhouse volunteering.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.