New greenhouse project is in the works at Lemon Creek Correctional Center

The Juneau Rotary Club is building a greenhouse at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. So far the foundation has been laid at the east end of the campus.

A city attorney, master brewer, architect, a reporter and several gardening enthusiasts are part of the Rotary work crew at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. The project was chosen by the Juneau rotary club as a way for volunteers to give back to the community.

Rotarian Sharon Gaiptman came up with the idea in 2010. When a prisoner told her that flowers lining the runway in a fashion show were the first things he’d seen grow since being locked up. The annual event called “Success Inside and Out” is aimed at preparing prisoners for the outside. Gaiptmen says her Rotary colleagues liked the idea.

Construction began three weeks ago on a rainy day when the cement foundation was laid. Gaiptman says it’s rewarding to see so many volunteers committed to the project.

“I am so happy to be here. I don’t care, it’s beautiful and it’s sunny today. But it wouldn’t matter if it were raining again, it’s happening as you can see,” Gaipman said.

Sandy Williams, Wayne Jensen, Denny DeWitt and Clark Gruening are the main project crew.

Gruening expects the greenhouse will enable some of the inmates to learn something about horticulture, agriculture, greenhouses.

Rotarian Denny DeWitt jumped on board as the community service director for the project. Dewitt says the greenhouse will be less obvious to the community than past projects.

“It’s the kind of project that is not gonna be on Egan, not everyone is gonna see it. But that’s not the important part. The important part is it’s gonna do some constructive things for folks that are in our community,” Dewitt said.

DeWitt has coordinated with prison superintendent Scott Wellard. The prison actually had a greenhouse in front of the facility for twenty years, but it was destroyed by high winds.

The new greenhouse will be maintained by prisoners and will grow edible produce and possibly flowers. DeWitt says it’s likely some of the vegetables may be used to feed the prisoners.

As for the materials, it all came in a greenhouse kit that contained plastic siding, wood, aluminum doors, and tools like riveters and nails. The kit was paid for by fund-raising efforts done throughout the year like the Rotary rose sale and wine auction. The total cost of the greenhouse is around $13,000. Architect Wayne Jensen is supervising the construction.

He has used his expertise on many previous projects for the rotary club, including the picnic shelter in Cope Park, another picnic shelter in Auke Bay, and the wetlands viewing deck off Egan drive. Jensen says he’s constantly looking for what to do next for his community.

“Once there’s an opportunity to do some more projects, you always want to take advantage of it,” Jensen said.

Rotarian Mary Lou Gerbi, who is also a gardner in her spare time, says she believes the project may help prisoners.

“This is a unique community so I truly believe there is the possibility of reform and maybe finding yourself, finding a different self. Maybe nurturing yourself through nature,” Gerbi said.

Rotary volunteers will work on the greenhouse until it’s completed. Jensen says it could take anywhere between 2 to 20 Saturdays.

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