In Woodlawn Park Saturday morning, volunteers painted a building a fresh new shade of green. In Hillhurst Park, they stuffed bag after bag with dead leaves. In Central Park, they painted a porch and raked out the gardens.
Across the city, dozens of volunteers spent the day cleaning up eight parks on I Love My Schenectady Parks Day.
In Hillhurst Park, in the Bellevue neighborhood, Ray Faught, a member of the community group Bellevue Preservation, yanked down the long vines that covered a high fence around a tennis court.
“It’s my neighborhood, and I like to see it look nice,” he said. “It improves the quality of life if everything looks better and it’s cleaned up.”
Faught has been a member of the community group for about 10 years, he said. With tennis courts, a swimming pool opening soon, a playground and plenty of green space, he said the park gives residents, kids especially, a place to “get out there and be active.”
“It’s better than sitting in front of a TV playing video games,” he said.
The volunteer initiative took place in Woodlawn Park, Hillhurst Park, the park at 10th Avenue and Webster Street, Riverside Park, Steinmetz Park, Jerry Burrell Park and Central Park from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers did a lot of clearing of brush and debris, as well as some painting, weeding, mulching and staining.
In promoting the event, Mayor Gary McCarthy called the parks “a gem of the city and a key ingredient in what makes Schenectady a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”
In Woodlawn Park, Spero Zoulas, chairman of the Woodlawn Park Redevelopment Committee, said the park has come a long way in the past four years.
“This park was a mess,” he said. “It was just overgrown with brush, vines. Nobody went into it unless they were tagging it or dumping stuff in the parking lot.”
A group of residents joined together to turn it around, though, spending a few years cleaning and renovating it.
“Ever since that, the park’s been utilized a lot by the neighborhood kids,” he said. “We actually have kids outside the neighborhood come in to use the basketball court, play volleyball. People take pride in having a nice park in their neighborhood.”
All 24 members of the Millennial Council made the rounds of the parks Saturday, pitching in with raking and cleaning.
“The central mission of the Millennial Council is to primarily lead by example,” said council Chairman Evan Euripidou. “We want to see our city be a better place, and the No. 1 way we’re going to do that is by getting our hands dirty and doing the work and showing people that to make the city great, it takes a lot of hands.”
Euripidou, like most volunteers out Saturday, said parks can be a source of community pride and a key to public perception of a city.
“If the parks are well kept, if the parks are well attended, if people feel safe in the park, it becomes almost a selling point, it becomes an attraction,” he said. “If people can see a clean park, they can see that residents and the city both care about it, and that kind of instills that sense of pride in them to want to do the same in their own personal space.”