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Leadership training was the main focus this week of the statewide SkillsUSA conference at General Butler State Resort Park, but community service was the centerpiece of the three-day event.
On Monday, more than 100 students from around Kentucky, including many from Carroll and Trimble counties, arrived early Monday to work on several projects to beautify the various areas of the park.
Under the leadership of Chuck Hollingsworth, a teacher at Carroll County Area Technology Center, local SkillsUSA members worked to repair the brick sidewalk leading to the Butler-Turpin State Historic House. The sidewalk has been in disrepair for some time, with uneven spots caused by tree roots and, in some places, missing bricks.
Students targeted the damaged areas, pulled up the bricks, spread sand underneath and then replaced the bricks to smoothe out the walking surface. They also were to install a drainage pipe under one section of the walk near the front door, and reseeded an area where the grass had died over the summer.
Carroll and Trimble students in the welding program at the Area Technology Center also constructed a piece of artwork, which they donated to the park and erected Monday afternoon in front of the clubhouse at the golf course.
The whimsical 6-foot-tall metal sculpture of a golfer pulling a golf bag behind him was created using various pieces of scrap – everything from an old dryer drum and a cast-iron skillet to stainless steel from discarded fry stations from the Two Rivers Restaurant.
Welding teacher David Coghill said the project gave the boys a chance to be creative and still use the skills they are working on, including all three types of welding – stick, tig and mig. They also used plasma cutters and torches to fabricate the pieces.
Once completed, the sculpture was transported to the C.E. McCormick ATC in Alexandria, where it was painted black using the school’s automobile paint booth, then returned to Carrollton.
“We used everything we can,” Coghill said. “Our boys have to cover a lot of ground in their training.”
Creating this type of artwork also is a learning tool. “They have to picture it in their head and then figure out how to make it,” Coghill said.
The class is planning to create another piece of art, which they plan to auction off to raise funds for the local SkillsUSA chapter later in the school year, he said.
In the campgrounds, one team of students from the Russellville ATC cleaned up two campsites of loose rock and transported it over to the primitive camping area, where another team used the rock to build fire pits at the 11 sites.
At the maintenance building near the front of the park, students from the Eastside and Southside Technical Centers in Fayette County were working to rebuild picnic tables, while students from the Lincoln County ATC were helping Floyd County ATC teacher and Skills USA Regional Director Lenville Martin disassemble heating and air-conditioning units for the park to sell as scrap metal.
The scrap, including copper from the wiring inside the units, should fetch about $2,000 to $3,000 for the park, Martin said.
Nearby, other students from Eastside and the Harrodsburg ATC worked to paint the exterior of employee residences near the front of the park. Other students were scheduled to power wash the front stone fence and help cut up fallen logs scattered throughout the park, as well as paint interior walls in the golf course pro shop and the gift shop at the park lodge.
Fran Dundon, interim state director for SkillsUSA Kentucky, said Monday’s event is the kick-off for a year-long commitment to match up SkillsUSA chapters with the state parks for community service projects throughout the year.
Sarah Smith, sales manager at Butler Park, said the nine projects being completed by the students likely will save the park a substantial amount of money in labor costs, particularly the work at the Butler-Turpin House.
Interim park manager Larry Totten agreed, and said the best thing about the project is that it was the brainchild of Dundon, who approached the park about offering the students’ time and skills for projects there, and came at a time when the park system is having a difficult time balancing its budget.
For instance, the state has closed the Butler-Turpin house to the public for the season, more than a month early, as a cost-saving measure, Totten said.
Projects, such as the repairs to the brick sidewalk there, “sometimes, sadly, you don’t get to it,” Totten said. “But if you can throw a lot of hands on it all at once, suddenly it’s done.”
Totten said the scrap HVAC systems were the result of the park system participating in an energy-savings program, in which the cost of replacing older units would be recovered by savings generated by new and more efficient units.
The state is allowing the individual parks the opportunity to sell the scrap and use the proceeds themselves, which is a bonus, Totten said, adding the park likely will use the money to buy a new snowplow.
The energy program was initiated this year at all parks west of Interstate 71, he said. If it is successful, he said, the state will implement the program at all the parks east of I-71.
The SkillsUSA conference officially began Monday evening, which included dinner with Elaine Walker, Kentucky State Parks commissioner, and will conclude today with an awards banquet for winners of the leadership contests. Awards will be presented by Bill Riggs, deputy secretary of Kentucky Education and Workforce Development, and Lindy Casebier, deputy secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.