The fields had been in rough shape. Over the years, they became overrun with grass and the basepaths pushed out on both sides and sank a couple of inches into the ground, creating curb-like edges. Now the infield, pitcher’s mound and base paths have been covered with a fresh clay infield mix laid down and tilled with precision. Also, a layer of unfired clay bricks are now underneath the pitcher’s mound and home plate, providing a much-needed foundation to keep the surfaces level for years to come.
Students on the school’s varsity baseball and varsity softball teams, not to mention physical education classes, now have a sufficient place to play ball thanks to school district personnel, the grounds and maintenance crew, and the Hewes Center Conservation Program.
“We wanted to bring the baseball and softball fields back to the conditions they were in when they were installed,” said Panama superintendent Bert Lictus. “Now, they might be in even better condition.”
The project represented a partnership between the Hewes Center Conservation/Natural Resource management Program, represented by Hewes Center principal Kip Feinen and conservation teacher Jeff Angeletti, and the Panama Central School District, represented by Lictus. The school provided the materials and Angeletti’s students provided much of the labor. It was a good project for the students since landscaping is a component of the curriculum and this gave them some hands-on training.
“The students are getting real life experience and they’re helping the school because it saves us time and money. It helps everyone,” Lictus said. “These are the kinds of partnerships we should all be doing.”
The Conservation/Natural Resource Management Program is a two-year program offered to high school juniors and seniors at the Hewes Center. Students spend half the school day at the Hewes Center earning Regent’s credits in the areas of math, science and English language arts while preparing for a wide variety of careers in fields related to developing and protecting earth’s natural resources. Areas of study include soil and fertilizers, greenhouse management, landscaping, forestry, heavy equipment operation, watershed management, and wildlife management.
Jeremy Ruch from Westfield Central School, Aaron Rahr from Falconer, Jerome Lookenhouse from Sherman and Dakota Bird from Ripley lay down unfired clay bricks beneath the pitcher’s mound on the baseball fields at Panama Central School. The four students are enrolled in the Conservation/Natural Resource Management Program at the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Hewes Educational Center in Ashville.