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Planting their mark on the community

Northeastern University engineering students have redesigned a garden in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood for community members with special needs, complete with raised tables and planting beds.

Students in the Northeastern chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (NUASCE) held a rededication ceremony last week at the garden, located in the Fenway Victory Gardens.

Civil engineering students originally created the garden in 1999, when the area was overgrown and filled with debris. Over time, the New England weather took its toll, and the Fenway Garden Society approached NUASCE in the summer of 2010 to survey the site.

The group determined that it needed a full makeover. Since then, more than 30 students have spent long days on campus building modular units and weekends at the site presiding over the garden’s rehabilitation. The work, which was designed to comply with the standards of American Disabilities Act, was completed in the spring.

At the ceremony, NUASCE president and project manager Alex Fagnand could not contain his joy as he explained the garden’s rich history and revealed the site’s new signage.

“Our goals were to listen to the needs of the community here and improve the functionality and the capacity of this plot,” said Fagnand, a senior.

He also thanked the Northeastern Civil Engineering Alumni Organization and the many businesses and community partners that participated in the project.

Dan Dulaski, student chapter advisor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, praised the students’ volunteering efforts. He surprised them with the ASCE 2011 Region 1 Distinguished Chapter Award, based on the group’s activities and service projects.

“If you look at the area around you, this site was literally transformed since last October, and if you look at all the students who worked on this project, they were transformed as well,” Dulaski said.

Jerome Hajjar, chair of Northeastern’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, commended the students for their commitment to the community.

The University’s co-op program had a strong impact on the project, he said. “One of the many benefits of cooperative education is that it greatly accelerates the professional maturity of our students,” Hajjar said. “They not only get work experience, but it becomes an integrated forum in which they learn about civil engineering. You can see it reflected in projects like this, in which we have real student leaders who take charge.”