Students plant trees at Lone Rock park

2010-04-26T00:00:00Z Students plant trees at Lone Rock parkby JEFF SCHMERKER - Staff Reporter Ravalli Republic
April 26, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Matthew Kleinjan was literally - literally - jumping up and down on his shovel trying to get the ground to give. Spare chunks of earth shot up with each jump, but the hole barely grew.

"What state are you going to?" asked Jordan Usher.

"I'm going to China," Kleinjan said.

"Why is everyone going to China these days?" Usher wondered.

"And Chinese kids right now," said Blaine Giachino, "are probably going, I'm digging to America."

The hole might have seemed pretty deep, but it was just right for a ponderosa pine seedling. Gary Leese came by and nudged one into the dry ground as the boys - all students at Lone Rock School - looked on. Rain began to fall.

"There's something about kids and dirt that just go well together," Leese said.

Next to Leese stood Dave Cluff, who held out his hand. Jaylen Bower placed a clod in it.

"I made this for you," Bower said. "I chipped it."

Then Bower put his dusty hands on Cluff's jacket.

"Why, thank you," Cluff said, and turned. "We'll put these trees in the ground and hope they can grow. It's Earth Day, and this is a great thing for kids to do."

Thursday was a day for the boys and girls of Lone Rock School's Excel after-school program to green up the newly-dedicated Gary Leese Park. Students, along with Cluff, Lone Rock's principal, and a handful of teachers, put 25 pines in the ground at the new park.

The trees were donated by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The planting was a combined Arbor Day, Earth Day and community service project, said Cher Galusha, from the school's after-school program.

"We started talking two months ago about what we might do and thought this was a great idea," Galusha said. Students have also gotten behind recycling projects and made art from recycled pulp.

The Gary Leese Park - until now known as the Lone Rock Community Park - owes its founding to a 1992 voter-approved mill levy, which is now raising some $44,000 a year.

The parks district first dedicated a 13-acre park at Lone Rock School and in 2005 got a $250,000 low-interest loan from Farmers State Bank to buy the land for the new 22-acre park, at the corner of Ambrose Creek and Lone Rock Cemetery roads. Besides the mill levy, community groups and locals volunteer to help out with site maintenance.

The park will soon open two tennis courts, has a planned picnic area, and has a soccer field and four softball fields. To be built later is nearly 1 mile of trails. There is a maintenance building and parking for 140 cars, and the district also has various maintenance equipment like a tractor, snowplow, mower, grass seeder, fertilizer spreader and more.

"We've got virtually everything we need to establish the program," Leese said.

Leese said he hopes for a ribbon cutting on the tennis courts later this spring. Everyone is invited to come.

So why did the park get named after him?

"They claimed," he said, "that I did all the work."

Reporter Jeff Schmerker can be reached at 363-3300 or


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