From left, Marion Porterfield, Vince Riggi and Scott Asmus volunteer to help clean up Jerry Burrell Park on Hamilton Street on Tuesday.
CAPITAL REGION The dead leaves that hid the daylilies in Jerry Burrell Park have been raked away.
The bright green shoots saw daylight for the first time Tuesday morning, when a group of volunteers descended on the park in honor of Earth Day and in an attempt to show the Hamilton Hill community that people care about the neighborhood.
Marking Earth Day
Upcoming earth-friendly events include:
Canal Clean Sweep Events
WHAT: Cleanup along state canal system and Canalway Trail
WHEN: Friday through Sunday
WHERE: Various locations in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Montgomery counties
Mabee Farm Earth Day Festival
WHAT: Dedication of the Win Bigelow Memorial Nature Trail at noon, guided nature walks, family scavenger hunt, tours of the George E. Franchere Educational Center’s solar and geothermal equipment, live music and booths staffed by local environmental nonprofit organizations. Admission is free.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: 1100 Main St., Rotterdam Junction
INFO: Call 887-5073 or schenectadyhistorical.org/mabee-farm/
Amsterdam citywide cleanup
WHAT: Community cleanup. Gloves, garbage bags and tools will be provided.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday
WHERE: Starting at City Hall, 61 Church St.
SICM Day of Service
WHAT: Help clean parks where the Schenectady Inner City Ministry serves lunch in summer.
WHEN: 8:45 a.m. to noon Saturday
WHERE: Continental breakfast at Faith United Methodist Church, 811 Brandywine Ave.; work sites include Hillhurst Park on Campbell Avenue, Jerry Burrell Park at Schenectady and Hamilton streets, Wallingford Park at Congress and Fifth streets, and Steinmetz Park on Lenox Road.
INFO: The Rev. Phillip Grigsby at 374-2683 or 935-5465; firstname.lastname@example.org; or Janet Mattis at 374-2683, 466-7602 or email@example.com.
Tree Toga Festival
WHAT: How-to demonstrations, live music, educational workshops, green products, children’s activities, opportunities to get involved, free trees to the first 100 people.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Along Henry Street in Saratoga Springs, from Caroline Street to Lake Avenue
Earth Day and Arbor Day celebration
WHAT: Free screenings of episodes of “Planet Earth,” guided tree identification walk, make-your-own natural Earth Day tie-dyed tote bag, personalized magnet or picture frame, hands-on displays and energy exhibits. Admission free.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project visitors center on Route 30 in North Blenheim
Cooperative Extension Earth Day celebration
WHAT: Garden workshops, composting demonstrations, garden tours, plant sale, soil testing and children’s activities.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 3
WHERE: Central Park Greenhouse, 180 Ptl. Arthur Chaires Lane, Schenectady
INFO: Cornell Cooperative Extension, 372-1622 or www.cceschenectady.org
Thirty to 40 workers scrubbed graffiti from playground equipment, swept up crushed plastic Easter eggs and broken glass, carted away bags of litter and raked the newly green grass.
The project brought together helpers from the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, Schenectady’s Parks Department, Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, General Electric, Better Neighborhoods Inc., The Community Builders and ReTree Schenectady. Neighbors lent a hand as well.
Kristen Shelley was there working. She lives in one of the Habitat for Humanity homes on Schenectady Street, less than a block from the park. Although it’s so close by, she stopped letting her 3- and
10-year-old children play there last year because of the broken glass and drug paraphernalia she’s often found strewn there.
Now that the park is clean, she said she’ll bring her kids back, and predicted other parents will do the same.
“It’ll attract more families and that’s what you want. You want parents to come with their children and [have] more of a family atmosphere for them,” she said.
Cleanups like this happen regularly in the park, but the broken glass, graffiti and trash keep reappearing, said Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association.
“Sometimes it’s very discouraging but I’m not giving up. I’m a fighter,” she said, surveying the park and the ambitious volunteers scattered throughout it. “I want the neighborhood to be clean, not only in front of where you live. You should clean everywhere. I clean my whole street. I want to see quality of life in Hamilton Hill.”
One cleanup job in one little park on one cloudy Earth Day morning won’t change the world, but it’s a start.
“I think any time you do anything, it makes a difference,” said Schenectady City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who was loading bags full of dead leaves into a yard cart. “You’re sending a message that all parts of the earth are important, all neighborhoods are important.”
Maureen Young, a labor and employment attorney for GE Power and Water, had been scrubbing at black graffiti on a yellow twisty slide for 10 minutes with limited success Tuesday morning.
“It’s at least less in your face, I guess,” she said, assessing her work.
She acknowledged that vandals could very well be back with a fresh can of paint in a day or two but was still enthusiastic about the cleanup effort.
“You can’t just give up and leave it. You’ve got to at least try and hope they get the message eventually,” she said. “And it also shows people care and people are going to keep coming back and trying to fix it.”
During the park cleanup, Anne Rockwood, manager of Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, reminisced about childhood Sundays spent at nearby St. Columba’s Church. She said she doesn’t like what she sees in Hamilton Hill now and wants to help change that. She advises concerned residents to join their neighborhood association.
“That’s really how you get a voice,” she said. “You get things done when you’re able to get people empowered and get groups together to do the work.”
Law enforcement is another important part of the effort, noted Schenectady City Councilman Vince Riggi, who was also helping to clean the park.
“I would like to see some enforcement of our archaic litter laws, because unfortunately, until people get ticketed for tossing out their foodstuffs, it’s going to continue,” he said.