Welding students help at Gladstone Harbor

GLADSTONE – Welding students from Gladstone High School received on-the-job training while helping the city renovate the Gladstone Harbor last weekend.

Six students worked to unweld remnants of the old dock system from the harbor wall Saturday. Work began at 8 a.m. and the students finished around 12:30 p.m.

“There was no extra credit,” said Trent Bellingar, vocational welding teacher at Gladstone High School, adding the students came on their own to gain experience.

Bellingar teaches welding to approximately 50 students in the classroom, but working on the docks was a new experience for his students.

“It looked like a good on-the-job training experience. They were hanging over the edge. In the classroom they’re sitting in chairs, comfortable,” he said.

All but one of the students helping to renovate the harbor were juniors in Bellingar’s vocational welding class. One student, Denham Miron, was an eighth grader who learned of the Saturday morning project from a friend.

“He wasn’t even in my class, he just wanted to come,” noted Bellingar.

The project began after Bellingar was contacted by the Department of Public Works and asked if students would be able to help remove portions of the existing dock structure.

“It just kind of happened. It’s good to have public entities helping each other,” said Bellingar.

Nicole Sanderson, parks and recreation director for the city, agreed.

“They probably saved us hundreds of dollars, especially if we’d have hired it out,” she said.

The dock system being removed from the harbor used a telescoping pole system to keep the docks from being damaged by ice. Because the docks were attached to poles that were slipped over smaller diameter poles secured to the harbor bottom, the docks could raise or lower with changes in water levels. However, over time the telescoping system deteriorated and the docks could not raise or lower as intended.

The old dock system had been a feature of the harbor since 1980, when it was installed entirely with volunteer labor. Most of the materials used in the dock system were donated, and the plan was designed by Gladstone resident Robert Heynssens.

Even with the old docks removed, the remnants of the older system could have damaged the new docks.

“The new docks would hit those,” said Bellingar in reference to pieces that had been welded to the harbor wall and were removed by students last weekend. “This way the new docks can float nicely.”

Rebuilding the harbor will cost roughly $450,000 and will be paid for using grant money, funds from the Downtown Development Authority, and marina funds. The project will add more slips, update utilities, and include a solar powered de-icing system.

For Bellingar’s students, the Saturday morning project was more than an opportunity to learn. It was an opportunity to help bring something to the community that will be in use for years to come.

“It was good on-the-job training for the kids and good community service, too,” said Bellingar.