Carting off history
High schoolers creating new ore cart planters for Negaunee
NEGAUNEE — Historically speaking, the year 1844 is special for the city of Negaunee, but in case anyone forgets, all they have to do is look at one of the new decorative ore cart planters that will be placed around town.
Carts that will bear that date are being created by students of Kevin Bell, an industrial arts education teacher at Negaunee High School.
Anna Mattson, a member of the Negaunee Beautification Committee, which is part of Negaunee Parks and Recreation, said the NBC received a Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Prosperous Places Grant to create awareness of the group and its involvement with the community.
The committee opted to reach out to an industrial arts class at NHS to make several new 1844 ore cart planters, which has become the NBC’s signature in Negaunee.
“We decided we needed something in our parks that says who we were, and 1844 carts already had been established, but they were falling apart,” Mattson said.
That created the need for new carts — as well as involving students and creating community awareness.
The NBC, she pointed out, already works with schools, including Lakeview Elementary School for Marigold Mania at Miners Park and Negaunee Middle School for Earth Day.
The cart planter project continues this tradition.
“They’ll start and see the future is maintaining our parks,” Mattson said.
The NBC’s mission statement is “to enhance the appearance and environment of prominent parks within the city limits of Negaunee.”
The planters should achieve that goal.
“This fits right in,” Mattson said.
Negaunee Parks and Recreation, she said, usually places the cart planters in town, and NBC committee members fill them with plants. In the fall, parks and rec stores them until it’s time to put them out again.
Mattson said the NBC partners with Cattron’s Lumber & Building Supplies in Negaunee to help the students obtain their materials.
“There’s no money involved for them with supplies or anything like that,” Mattson said. “It’s all paid for.”
They also get school credit.
Bell is familiar with his students’ involvement in the planter project, whose benefits will extend beyond high school workshop walls.
“I think they’ve taken pride in it and they know it’s going to be in the city of Negaunee,” Bell said.
The project, he noted, has involved a lot of time spend cutting.
“You’ve got to be accurate on the cuts so everything fits together,” Bell said. “It’s like a big puzzle when it’s done.”
The students use special technology called computer pneumatic cutting on a ShopBot to cut the 1844 date on the wood, which is treated.
The cutting is accomplished before that section of the cart is placed, Bell said.
The date is important, Mattson stressed, because it’s Negaunee’s “claim to fame” in history.
“Iron ore was discovered in Negaunee in 1844,” Mattson said. “There’s no other state in the whole country that can claim that.”
It’s a fact the NBC stresses to local students.
“It’s a continuum of our students being made aware of Negaunee’s history,” Mattson said.
That continuum, however, will require periodic work on the cart planters.
Bell pointed to a planter, made in 2019, that shows wear and tear.
“It takes a beating,” he said. “It’s always wet.”
Overall, though, it has held up pretty well, although talk is ongoing about placing a type of box or rubber bottom inside the cart to maintain it better.
One of the NHS seniors who has taken ownership of the project is Jason Waterman.
It’s been a lot of fun, he said.
“It’s been really cool,” Waterman said. “You see these around town all the time, so it’s pretty cool that we get to make a couple more of them.”
Another senior, Jesse Ossenheimer, has been involved in making the planters too.
“It’s something different,” Ossenheimer said. “I like doing projects. It gets you out of the shop because you’re doing something else.”
He didn’t find the project particularly challenging, although he too found it fun.
“A lot of it has been painting,” Ossenheimer said. “Painting is pretty simple. It’s fun when we did all the CNC work on the 1844s on top of the cart.”
He has high expectations for the finished products.
“It’ll be nice when they’re done,” Ossenheimer said.
The NBC meets at 6:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at Midtown Bakery & Cafe, 317 Iron St., or at a current project site. For more information, call Mattson at 906-362-8160.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org