Central Park suffers as Schenectady cuts back

Thursday, June 28, 2012
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The flower gardens near the Rose Garden in Schenectady's Central Park are overgrown with weeds.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
The flower gardens near the Rose Garden in Schenectady's Central Park are overgrown with weeds.

— Thistles are taking over the flower beds at Central Park, the jewel of the city’s parks, but officials are hoping residents may come to the rescue.

While city workers have managed to keep Central Park mowed, there are simply too few workers — and too little money in the city’s coffers — to maintain everything. Flower beds that had once been maintained by others have been left to grow weeds.

Veolia, which ran the city’s wastewater treatment plant for many years, volunteered to keep up the flower beds by the Wright Avenue entrance to the park. Now that Veolia is gone, those beds are overgrown.

The flowers in the first bed to greet visitors from that side of the park is overwhelmed by thistles, though a few flowers are peeking through.

Another bed, next to the park headquarters building, has grass and thistles more than 3 feet high. That was planted by volunteers who built the bed to attract butterflies. The volunteers eventually left, but the city doesn’t have the resources to take over.

Residents walking through the park said they’d like to offer a helping hand.

Rather than criticizing the city, half a dozen residents said they understand Schenectady has little money, and they agree that flowers shouldn’t be a priority.

“I think it would be nice to see them, but as long as the playgrounds are being maintained, that’s more important,” said parent Megan Robert.

Several residents said they’d like to plant flowers and pull weeds.

“There’s a lot of people who would be willing to adopt a bed. I homeschool my kids. That would be a great thing for them,” said resident Paula LaJoy.

Some residents have already volunteered. Members of the league that built a disc golf course in Central Park are planning to weed at least one flower bed.

All of the beds are available for adoption, said parks groundskeeping supervisor William Macejka.

“If they can adopt a flower bed, that would be great,” he said. “In reality, the park is not in bad shape. But we can’t have people weedwhacking or mowing.”

The liability is too great, he said, and union members could officially complain of losing work. But since the union is not maintaining the flower beds, they can be taken over by the first comer.

Macejka plans to offer mulch to anyone who wants to put sweat into a flower bed. Those who want to adopt a flower bed can submit their plans to the mayor’s office, and Macejka said he’d eagerly review them.

Mayor Gary McCarthy agreed, recalling that former City Councilman Tom Isabella asked residents to adopt a park when he chaired the city’s Recreation Committee.

“We’ve had that type of thing over the years,” he said.

Asking for volunteers is better than spending tax money on flowers, some residents in the park said.

They said they’d rather the city spent its money on programs — there are now structured programs at four city parks — than on flowers.

“I was disappointed the pool’s not open,” said resident Dawn Harriman, who remembers when the city pools would open as soon as school closed. Due to budget cuts, the pools now open more than a week later and close two weeks earlier.

That loss was more obvious to some than flowers.

“I really hadn’t noticed the flowers,” said resident Bryan Martin. “They need more activities, especially with the crime rate. It’s getting younger and younger. They need more things for the kids to do.”

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June 28, 2012
8:15 a.m.
ajdjr73 says...

Thistles are insidious in the manner in which they spread. One has to be ever vigilant or they will take over. Kudos to our civic minded residents who are stepping up to help out.

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