Basalt High School’s Peace Garden getting final touches |

Basalt High School’s Peace Garden getting final touches

A Peace Garden created by a student at Basalt High School as a way to escape bullies and the stresses of every day life is getting final touches by another student this school year.

Austin Pagan, a junior at Basalt High School, wants to add a shade structure that will make the Peace Garden a more inviting location in spring and fall. The landscaped garden is located in an alcove created by the boxy exterior at the front of the high school.

Pagan worked with Robert Pattillo, a structural engineer and his mentor for a capstone project, to create plans for a shade structure with an eye-catching design. The structure uses all straights boards, but they are arranged in a way that makes it look like a curved structure.

“I thought that was cool that something that looks perfectly straight could be manipulated in a way that makes it looked curved,” Pagan said. “It’s very block-oriented out there. I feel like something different would add something to look at. If it was just a square with a flat top it would be very basic.”

Pattillo added, “It’s technically a hyperbolic parabolid. It’s interesting because it’s simply made. It looks like a wave roof or something like that.”

Students at BHS must complete a capstone project to graduate. They have a lot of latitude in what they can pursue but it must apply their education. For Pagan, working on the shade structure has required math, physics and solar orientation.

Kate Bradley, a former member of the BHS faculty who helped with the original Peace Garden, has stayed involved to see it through to completion.

“I retired last year but it is hard to let go of this,” Bradley said. “I am very passionate about it.”

She wants to honor Mauricio Sosa, the former BHS student who started the project.

“This whole garden started with being bullied and having a place that’s safe,” Bradley said. “I decided I would see it through.”

Sosa worked for four years on the Peace Garden. He wrote grant applications, appealed to community members for in-kind help and oversaw work on the irrigation system and landscaping. He raised more than $40,000 in grants and in-kind service for phase one.

Bradley said she feared that Pagan might be overwhelmed with the second phase, but he assured her: “I’ve got this.” She has been impressed with his pursuit of the project.

“It is experiential education at its best,” Bradley said. “He has taken the ball and run with it. We could never do it without (Patillo), who has all these connections in engineering.”

Pagan said as his math and Advanced Placement physics classes have progressed this academic year on a parallel course to the knowledge needed on the Peace Garden project.

“It’s like double learning. It’s learning the concept and actually using it,” he said.

The goal is to complete the shade structure by the end of the school year, and then he will make presentations on the process during his senior year, as required for the capstone project.

Eagle County awarded a $7,000 grant to help with the project. Pagan, Pattillo and Bradley are seeking in-kind support for excavation, concrete forming and pouring, steel fabrication, timber supplies and labor. Pattillo said it is a small project, so it wouldn’t be a time-consuming burden for volunteers. A lot of work can be done in advance, and then they will hold a “barn-raising event” in late April or May to erect the structure. The structure is 16-feet-by-20-feet and ranges from 9-to-13-feet high.

Anyone interested in helping can send an email to

With shade in the Peace Garden, Pagan sees the space getting used more frequently by students, faculty and even people hiking or biking by on the Rio Grande Trail. The public is welcome to use it, he said.

Pattillo said helping out has been rewarding.

“It’s a fun little project,” he said. “I always wanted to build one of these.”