Phoenix High School student Callie Fleeger, 17, is helping to restore the Espey Wildlife Station along the Bear Creek Greenway in Central Point.

High school students turn grafitti into art

CENTRAL POINT — Little butterflies replaced swastikas, bumblebees and flowers covered gang graffiti and the little gazebo that overlooks the herons and turtles in Mingus Marsh took on a new life Thursday.

Seven Phoenix High School students volunteered to paint the Espey Wildlife Station along the Bear Creek Greenway, about a half-mile south of East Pine Street.

They sanded down graffiti notched into the wood and relished the prospect of painting over any gang signs.

"It's ridiculous," said Molly Hobson, a 17-year-old senior from Talent. "I don't know why people do it."

The students then took their project further, painting little butterflies, spiders, flowers and other images.

Hobson said her teacher, John Cornet, asked her and the other students recently if they wanted to paint the gazebo, built in 1995 by students from Crater High to honor environmentalist Larry Espey.

"We said we'd love to help out and fix things up," said Hobson.

"These kids are just wonderful," said Cornet. "Immediately, they said let's do something about this."

Cornet said he and other cyclists have stopped at the gazebo to gaze out at the marsh and he was bothered by the graffiti.

Since Jackson County is in a financial bind, Cornet went to Ashland Hardware, which agreed to donate the paint. Quizno's Sub and Little Caesar's Pizza in Central Point donated food for the work party.

Senior Jon Kerlinger said he stops every day on his bicycle at the gazebo and jumped at the chance to paint it.

"I think it's a really cool thing," said the 17-year-old Medford resident.

The students, including student body president Conrad Hulen of Medford, were particularly bothered by the swastikas cut into the wood, so they decided to turn a negative into a positive.

Senior Megan Burr did a few practice drawings on some cardboard, then started painting plants on a post that holds up the gazebo. The 17-year-old Talent resident is well known at her school for her ability to draw. "I get volunteered all the time for stuff like this," she said.

Burr then painted a butterfly. She and the other students decided that all the posts needed an image, so senior Callie Fleeger from Talent got into the act by painting a bumblebee.

Cornet said the idea of painting insects was born out of necessity. "They said, 'What can we do to obscure this carved image?' "

The two other students who helped paint are sophomore John Alexander of Medford and senior Hannah Wilson of Talent. Another teacher, Diane Green, also pitched in to paint.

Greenway Coordinator Karen Smith said the county's budget is lean and the work was much appreciated.

"It's always wonderful when there's a group of great kids," she said.

Smith, who brought doughnuts and other supplies to help with the painting, said the gazebo is structurally in good shape, but over the past years some graffiti has popped up.

She said graffiti hasn't been a major problem, describing it more as a nuisance. She said the Greenway path receives more abuse from the roots of cottonwood trees that push up the asphalt.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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