Jordyn Kehle/The AS Review

Over the past year, students and faculty have been developing plans for a new Outback Farm pavilion to provide stability and a safe learning environment. Now that the Outback’s proposal for a new pavilion to replace the current one is nearly complete, construction could potentially start this summer, and the pavilion may be ready for use beginning fall quarter.

The Outback is a joint program of Fairhaven College and the Associated Students that maintains five acres of land between the south end of Fairhaven College and the Buchanan Towers residence hall. The Outback is entirely coordinated and maintained by students in an effort to teach sustainable growing and land use methods to other students, faculty and the Bellingham community.

Outback Coordinator Roby Ventres-Pake said that the Outback is a demonstration site and student area to practice small-scale sustainable agriculture.

\xa0The Outback Farm utilizes a number of structures, such as this amphitheater, for classes, workshops and other various activites. Daniel Berman/The AS Review.

“It’s a space for students to learn, classes to use and for projects to happen,” Ventres-Pake said.

The current Outback pavilion serves as a learning space for various classes and workshops to meet. Roger Gilman, the dean of Fairhaven College and academic supervisor of the Outback, said the pavilion was built entirely by students and made out of leftover materials.

“It was never constructed with the idea of being a long-term outdoor classroom shelter,” Gilman said.

The current pavilion poses potential minor danger to students utilizing the space because of its unstable foundation and weak framing, according to the proposal submitted by Outback coordinators to the AS Board of Directors last quarter.

The idea for a new pavilion was proposed about a year ago by several student members of the Outback, as well as faculty. The plan was then discussed and voted on by the student governing council for the Outback, and subsequently developed with expert input from architects and supervisors of Western’s Facilities Management as well as city of Bellingham building code inspectors.  Facilities Management is the university department that plans, develops, maintains and operates Western’s facilities and grounds.

“The structure that they are proposing has open sides and a big roof that allows for classes to meet and work parties to organize and workshops to hold events, even when it is drizzly, misty or rainy,” Gilman said. “It extends the use of the Outback in general into different kinds of weathers and extends the season for which students can work out there and research.”

After submitting a request for a new pavilion to AS Vice President of Business and Operations Ben Brockman last quarter, the Outback submitted the proposal to the AS board for funding.

However, the proposal was not accepted by the AS board members at the time.

“The motion did not pass because we felt that the estimate we got was not completely accurate,” Brockman said. “We also found out that Facilities Management gave us an estimate for the project that greatly exceeded what a private contractor gave us.”

The original proposal from the Outback was a funding request not to exceed $25,000. Although the project estimate proposed last quarter was only slightly over $20,000, only $3,000 was bid for labor from an outside contractor. Brockman said that Facilities Management charges significantly more for the same service. Since construction of the pavilion must go through Facilities Management, the AS board found the estimate for labor to be inaccurate.

After the AS board did not pass the proposal last quarter, the Outback submitted a revised proposal this quarter. “This quarter, we authorized the proposal and put it out to bid for materials,” Brockman said.

At this point in the proposal process, the Outback has received design approval from Facilities Management and has recently sent out the request for materials for the lowest bid. Ventres-Pake said that someone outside the university will provide materials while Facilities Management works out a construction estimate how much they will charge to put the pavilion up.

“When we have those two numbers with our finalized plan, we buy the materials, hire Facilities Management and go to the AS board for funding,” Ventres-Pake said. “We’re hoping they will fund the project, essentially because it is pretty far outside the Outback’s operating budget.”

If the AS board approves the funding of the project, construction of the new pavilion will start as soon as summer begins in hopes of finishing by fall quarter.

“I expect the new pavilion would increase student involvement in the Outback a lot, just as a consequence of being able to host more classes and programs and get more people out here,” Ventres-Pake said. “It’s a pretty unique and special place to have here.”