High school horticulture program is cream of the crop

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 5/29/18

What produces multi-colored beauty, has a long positive track record and provides good job opportunities? The answer is the Westminster High School horticulture program. It has had a long-time legacy …

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High school horticulture program is cream of the crop


What produces multi-colored beauty, has a long positive track record and provides good job opportunities?

The answer is the Westminster High School horticulture program. It has had a long-time legacy going back to teacher Phil Love.

Today, stewardship of the instructional program has been assumed by Heather Crabtree who guides 110 students through four core instructional areas; irrigation tech, landscape design and urban horticulture - which is greenhouse management and floral design. Her college degree from Purdue University in Agricultural Communications is serving her well.

Beginning next school year, the program will broaden from horticulture and metals curriculum to a full agricultural pathway, incorporating plant science, animal science and mechanics program. After an approximate 180 students have the introduction class of the three core pathways under their belt, they will be able specialize and select which direction fits them the best.

Landscaping work opportunities are big

Crabtree pointed out that the broad category of “agriculture” employment consists of 26 million jobs nationally with only one percent being farming. In Colorado, the landscape industry employs 45,000 workers throughout the state and brings more than $2 billion to the Colorado economy each year. There are major job opportunities in the landscaping category.

For example, passing the irrigation tech class through Front Range Community College can earn the student the necessary certification. A lot of jobs in this field start at $20 per hour.

Trade group is a big supporter

A big supporter of Westminster High School’s horticulture program and other Colorado schools is the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. They provide speakers who augment school course studies, provide free materials to horticulture programs and offer training to high school teachers.

The group offers an innovative Career Pathway program which helps students and teachers. Their program assists high school teachers in teaching skills which are needed for students to be hired directly out of high school and begin upward mobile careers.

The Pathway program was launched in 2017 with the Colorado Community College System. Together, they offer Career and Technical Education teachers hands-on training in basic landscape skills so they can apply these lessons in their classrooms. Another hands-on opportunity each year is student involvement at the Colorado Garden and Home Show.

Earlier this year, Westminster and Arvada High School students and their instructors designed and built the Student Garden. The garden gives students another opportunity to hone their hands-on skills.

Westminster to embark on comprehensive plan update

City Council gave the green light last month to updating the city’s comprehensive land use plan along with extensive city code updates and consolidation pertaining to land development and design standards. The approval of the respective professional contracts now triggers a thorough process with stakeholders’ input along the way. The projected timeline to complete the whole coordinated effort is late 2019 or early 2020.

The city staff report on this topic stated;

“The project will require stakeholder input from numerous City departments, development customers and residents of Westminster. The initial step for both projects is a visual preference survey, which is expected to occur over the summer of 2018. The survey results and individual stakeholder interviews will help inform subsequent public engagement expected to occur from spring to fall, 2019.”

Opportunities for citizens’ input

Those input opportunities will afford Westminster citizens’ input on land use matters which would then guide future development. While there will be other key components of the scope of work such as design standards updating and city code reorganization, the “meat” of this almost $500,000 combined endeavor is future land use.

In the last nine-to-12 months, I have heard a fair amount of grumbling about the number of new apartment units being approved by City Council. In the case of four of these developments, the comprehensive land was changed by City Council to allow apartment development. Prior to their actions, only non-residential land uses were allowed.

Coupled with changes in land use, the water supply plan can be affected. In the case of the four amended comprehensive plan cases, an approximate 1,000 additional apartment units were approved and are now under construction. This means additional water demand will take place when compared to the prior approved land use such as office or small retail center. Furthermore, acquiring additional water rights for domestic use has gotten much more difficult and expensive over the years.

A long-term perspective is best

A city’s comprehensive land use plan is the “bible” when it comes to the policy direction of the future of a community. Everything else such as transportation planning, water supply, parks and recreation, affordable housing and sustainability are tied to land use.

While the development community is focused on today’s market place, any city government should take the long-term perspective. Changing allowed land use to accommodate today’s market pressures should be carefully weighed. This is especially true when the remaining “raw” or undeveloped land in a city is limited. The upcoming input-sessions for citizen feedback are an opportune time to weigh in on your thoughts on how the city should further develop with limited “raw” undeveloped land remaining and a finite water supply.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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