Report from

Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA)

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You will find the expected desert plants and trees at BTA along with with plants from areas throughout the world that have climates similar to Arizona's. In addition your will find, art.


wildlife...a bat, in this case.

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and spectacular views.


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BTA has been a favorite site for VOAz events since February of 2000. In that year, VOAz volunteers built two large gabion structures and stabilized banks on the Silver King Wash, removed debris and over 110 non-native plants and trees from the natural area of Queen Creek, and removed additional non-native plants further down stream.


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After our 2001 event was rained out, we returned in 2002 for a series of work events from April to June during which we removed an old, rotting deck and built a new deck at Avery Lake, picture above.

Mr. Blanchard Builds His Dream Deck

Mr. Blanchard (real old guy in the center) and part of his deck-o-rama crew

April 27, May 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, June 1

Ray Dion, Park Manager at Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA), asked VOAz to consider rebuilding the rotting deck over Avery Lake. Without a skilled craftsman to lead the project, we would not have taken it on. Ed Blanchard’s talent for this type of work was evident last year when VOAz built the wood shed at Hart Prairie. It turns out that framing carpentry is a former, brief career of Ed’s. Lucky for VOAz and BTA

Here is Ed's crew. The numbers in (parentheses) are the number of days individual volunteers worked, if more than one. Ed Blanchard (8), Peter Michels (6), Melissa Blanchard (4), Mike Galway (3), Conrad Griese (2), Michael Baker (2), Steve Wieczorek (2), Candy Galway, Marge Sparks, Pati Hodges, and Rogil Schroeter.

Ed was there for all eight days because he was the Main-Hammer, the Big Kahuna, the Grand Pobah-in other words, Project Manager and principal carpenter. Ray Dion, Park Manager, and his staff were always available when needed. But this was a true VOAz project and by far our most technically demanding.

On April 27, six volunteers dispensed with the old deck in short order. Then there was a delay while we waited for the materials to arrive and placement by BTA staff of fittings atop peers that support the two sides of the deck suspended over the lake .

Conrad is cutting away the old pipe rail support while Ray and Ed review the plans. (Or, are they smoking a joint?)

Installing a safety fence after the old deck was removed. (This was to keep visitors to BTA from falling into the lake. Ed did anyway.)

Rough-saw pressure treated lumber was used for the support structure and the trellis and rail columns. A synthetic wood-substitute was used for the decking and handrails. The trellis is made of redwood.

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While the Arboretum provided a plan to work from, there were still plenty of unknowns to deal with as the project progressed. This is why it took eight work-days rather than the four or five originally projected.

The work on the deck framing got under way on May 18 (day three). Ed and Steve managed an involuntary plunge into Avery Lake--the only volunteers to achieve this distinction during the entire project. On this same day, one of the more significant “adjustments” had to be made. All pressure treated framing materials were rough sawn, not sanded four sides. This caused problems mounting the beams. Ray’s well-built beam supports were designed to accommodate 1-1/2” thick lumber. Instead, the rough sawn material is 1-5/8” to 1-7/8” thick. Solution: The outside face of the beams had to be scribed and shaved down with the skill saw. Tedious and time consuming.


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Installation of the synthetic decking material started on the 18th. The hand rail supports, with wire mesh safety panels, hand rail, trellis beams, and trellis followed during the remaining days.

With 4x4 columns to support the hand rail and trellis in place, the deck could be installed.

The pressure-treated lumber above the deck was given a coat of polyurethane and a ramp wass added by Ray’s staff.


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BTA recognized this exception contribution by Ed Blanchard and his co-VOAz volunteers with this plaque.


At the same time this project was going on, VOAz teamed with Ray Dion, at the request of the Arizona Trail Association, to transplant cacti at nearby Picket Post Trailhead. This were placed on the grounds of the Arboretum and then returned to the reconstructed and expanded Trailhead the following November as part of an REI Service Project.

March 11, 2003

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Twenty volunteers from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania helped BTA staff repair the perimeter fence as part of their "Spring Care Break."

January, 2004

Once again Ed Blanchard lead a VOAz team at BTA on one of our more unusual and interesting projects--helping too complete a new suspension bridge across Queen Creek.

BTA Bridge Project

Saturday's crew: Pete, holding a knight's lance, Sandy, Ken, Donna, Bill, Judy, Bob and Dave.

Added September 2004 - Ed visited the completed bridge

Pete, Dave and Donna install the last deck plank to the north end platform.

Bill prepares 2x6s for the bottom rail or toe kicker.

Judy and Ken oiled 100 12 foot 2x6's on Saturday under close supervision.

Anna provided close supervision during the oiling process.

Gail shows Pete how to observe her using a power drill.