Bringing a garden back to life | NevadaAppeal.com

Bringing a garden back to life

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Michael Montiel, a 16-year-old sophomore at Carson High School, is restoring the memorial garden at Eagle Valley Middle School for his Eagle Scout project. The garden was established in honor of former teacher Wally Keller, and Montiel plans to add science teacher Eric Anderson, who died in 2004.
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For years, it’s been overgrown, tall milkweed crowding the sidewalk and keeping sunlight from reaching what grows underneath.

Michael Montiel, 16, a sophomore at Carson High School, remembers walking past the area at Eagle Valley Middle School, which he attended for three years.

“It’s pretty peaceful out there,” he said. “When I was going to school, I never really noticed it a lot. I was just rushing to class. Now that I’m older, it’s pretty.”

More than a week ago, Michael and a half-dozen others arrived about 9 a.m. and began pulling weeds. They worked until 2 p.m.

The area, at the back side of the school, was built in memory of science teacher Wally Keller.

“He was here for several years, and then he passed away from cancer,” said EVMS Principal Ferd Mariani. “The Boys & Girls Club had a Wally Keller fundraiser.”

And that’s how the memorial garden came to be. Michael, who is revitalizing the area for his Eagle Scout Project for Troop 341 Carson City, knew of someone else to whom to dedicate the garden – Eric Anderson, an EVMS science teacher, who died in October 2004 also from cancer. Michael had him as a science teacher and did Science Olympiad with him.

“Basically, he taught me not to give up,” Michael said. “He was a great inspiration because he knew he was going to die, but he kept going even though he knew he was going to pass away. He still kept teaching.”

After about 30 hours of work by Michael and volunteers, the area was clear of weeds. Bark lying on the ground as a covering was also removed.

“It’s kind of a quiet part of the school,” Mariani said. “It’s really pretty. It looks into the Eagle Valley area. You can see the river from there.”

The school gave Michael a bronze plaque to put up in memory of Keller. In the meantime, he is searching for money to purchase a plaque for Anderson and then funds to lay both plaques into a large, flat stone, which he also needs to find.

Using heavy machinery, Michael will lift a large concrete table that for for years has been toppled in the garden. A new foundation has already been put in. The table is the next large step in the process, which he hopes to finish in a few weeks.

“I started work on this about two years ago – really planning it about two months ago,” he said. “But the idea came to me sometime last year.”

Michael still wants to move large planters from a back fence up close to the school near the table and plant roses in them.

“The garden is basically just a place to reflect and relax,” he said. “It’s also a place where teachers can take their students if they need to study nature or animals or insects. I decided to do this because the entire time I was at Eagle Valley. I didn’t like how (the area) looked, and I wanted to make it more presentable.”

An Eagle Scout project must be something that benefits the community, but not require continual upkeep. Michael plans to put down weed-suppressants in the area and around the few young trees.

“Hopefully, no more weeds ever come here again,” he said. “They were chest high. You couldn’t even walk through them.”

To help Michael, call him at 230-3908. He is looking for plants, like roses and lilies, and funds to purchase a plaque.

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.