Volunteer Activities

SUNY ESF Clean-Up May 2014

Special Thanks to ESF's Department of Landscape Architecture and the Sigma Community for helping to beautify Thornden Park's Lily Pond in May.

Front row, left to right: Kim Daugherty and Meg Johnson

Second row, left to right: Nathan Powers, Gena Morgis and Dan Reeder

Third row, left to right: Chelsea Andersson, Sterling Rung, Ben Bosclair

Back row, left to right: Richard Hawks and David Warzyniak

Missing from photo: Ely Margolis and Robin Hoffman

July 12, 2013

This week a young man, named Charles Rutagarama, contacted me with an engaging idea. As an intern of the Mercy Works Synergy program, a nonprofit organization located in Syracuse, New York, Charles was given $100 and charged to spend this money in a way that would benefit other people. He had two weeks to complete the task.  

After walking around Thornden Park and discussing the park’s various needs and our concerns, Charles expressed an interest in using the money to protect and preserve newly planted trees in the park. Over the years Thornden Park has lost over 50% of its newly planted trees due to weather, vandalism and the weed wacker! Thornden’s aging canopy has to be replaced if the park is to remain the green oasis that it is today. 

Charles purchased 8 tree rings, which form a weed barrier around trees and help hold in moisture. Tree Rings look like hardwood mulch but are made from longer-lasting, 100% recycled rubber. A unique manufacturing process allows water and nutrients to pass through to plant roots while forming a barrier against weeds. The tree rings will also keep the weed wackers at a distance! After placing 8 tree rings around newly planted trees lining the road near the playground, Charles and I also weeded and cleared around five other trees in the park. 

The Thornden Park Association is very grateful to Charles and for the Vision Assignment that he is part of. It is our hope to match his generosity by purchasing 8 more tree rings, thereby doubling his vision! Perhaps others will follow Charles Rutagarama’s lead.   

August 25, 2012

An amazing afternoon in over 90 degree temperatures! 40, that’s FORTY, ESF freshmen descended on Thornden Park on Saturday, August 25 to volunteer their energy and enthusiasm for three hours. Working alongside Thornden Park Association members we weeded long stretches of flowerbeds in the E. M. Mills Rose Garden. 

We mulched the perennial beds at the Lily Pond. We cared for 10 newly planted trees along the football field, watering and mulching each and every one. We removed invasive growth from 5 stands of trees located around the Lily Pond. 

And last but not least we removed the grass from the brick pathway leading to the Lily Pond. We finished just in time for Alexandra and Ryan on their wedding day to walk down the brick aisle and enter the land of “Happy Ever After.

July 19, 2012

 Dale Avers, Ginny Fellman, Ann Gibson, Ruth Yanai and I finished weeding the beds at the Carriage House. We planted the final flat of orange impatients, though digging holes was a major challenge.

After everyone left I got Syris, one of the campers, to help me pull grass from the gravel driveway - no mean task! As children started arriving Syris encouraged them to join in the effort. Knowing Syris, he will have the driveway done by the end of the day! 

Water request: If you are out on errands please consider driving by the Madison Street flower beds with a bucket of water for the newly planted annuals. If they look watered give the water to some of our very stressed shrubs. 

2012 Volunteers: Sigma Lambda Alpha, Orange Seeds, Tim Rice, Phil DeMocker, Lyn Simmer,  Miranda Hine, Frank Forward, Paul Aviles, Grace Flusche, Marilyn Zaleon, Ellen Somers, Kevin Doupe, Dale Avers, Jeanette Mattson, Gary Avers, Dan Sanders, Carol Simson, Karen Hill, Ginny Fellman, Ruth Yanai, Ann Gibson

(July 15) Ellen Somers, Marilyn Zaleon and I finished weeding the beds at the Madison Street entrance to the park and started clearing the 5 foot weeds at the Carriage House. We also planted two more flats of impatients before we ran out of steam in the heat. Pink and purple impatients at Madison and orange at the Carriage House.  

While working at the Carriage House I was reminded of the long, hard slog The Thornden Park Associate had to save that building and what a gem it is today. The Shakespeare camp just finished, and the Thornden Park Discovery Camp starts today and will run for the next three weeks. Two weeks are full with a waiting list and the last week (for Pre-K, K and Grade 1) has only two openings. So those people who argued that we were wasting money and that the building would never be used were WRONG. It is such a lovely space. Dan Reeder's landscaping was the last part of the restoration at this site and it was worth every penny.   

Bricks: Before and After

On October 23, the Alpha Xi Sigma Honor Society of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry pulled rambunctious weeds from abrick path near the Lily Pond. Members of the Honor Society must have a GPA of 3.175 to be part of the Honor Society, and must participate in at least 16 hours of off-campus community service.

Group shot from left to right. Top: Robin Brett, Kelly Wong, Cody Dieterle, Kelly Metz, John Mars. Bottom: Colleen Gallagher, Kimi Worrell, Tessa Skiff, Kristin Doherty, Jennifer Nechamen. Center front: Frannie Monasterio. 

Saving Thornden’s Young Trees

Pictured from left to right: Sean Payne, Sam Shedd, Nina Bendo, Logan Salanger, Emma Tucker, Anatole and Lucient de Nevers, Eli Majors, Jude Scanlon, Odin Cridge, Alison Pangborn, Nyasa Williams, Mai Siwinski, Ian Bryant, Nick MacNaughton.

Mills Rose Garden wins second prize

All-America Rose Selections (AARS, rose.org) announced the winners of America's Best Rose Garden Competition 2010. After an admirable journey of restoration and community support, the historic San Jose Municipal Rose Garden has been awarded the title of "America's Best Rose Garden" in the All-America Rose Selections' national competition, which garnered over 21,000 votes from rose garden lovers across the nation.

            Two New York State gardens rounded out the top three spots, as Dr. E.M. Mills Memorial Rose Garden of Syracuse was deemed the runner-up, while Central Park Rose Garden of Schenectady earned third place in this year's competition. Winners were determined by total votes from visitors and rose enthusiasts, overall garden condition, and community programs, including tours and volunteers days that engage visitors and promote each respective garden. Kudos to the many volunteers, visitors and parks personnel who earned this award!


If you take the short walk or drive in Thornden Park between the Greenwood Place and Beech Street entrances you will notice that a series of new trees has been planted along the sides of the road.  On Saturday November 7th a group of 13 SUNY ESF students along with several community volunteers and the Thornden Park Association Board gathered in the pool parking lot at 9AM to plant 6 approximately 10 ft. tall bare root maple trees and 6 potted oaks of smaller size.  The planting project was inspired and motivated by a continuing awareness of the diminishing tree population in Thornden Park and a desire to restore the canopy according to its original historical landscape.  Heeding a previous informative and helpful consultation by Chris Capella Peters from the State Historic Preservation Organization (SHPO) and Brian Liberti our recent former arborist for the City of Syracuse, planting these particular species of trees in linear formation respected the park’s historical integrity and original landscape design.

            As the saying goes, “Many hands make light the work”.   In just one hour’s time our group of volunteers accomplished the job.   We gathered together once again before going separate ways to view the sight of newly planted and mulched trees which a neighbor of mine once aptly described to me as “flags of pride.”

            Even though the planting is done the story however is not yet complete.  The Thornden Park Association has experienced somewhat of a discouraging history of a poor survival rate in comparison to the numbers of trees we have planted over the years.  There are several possible reasons for this lack of survival, but we have realized that when a person “adopts a tree” for as long as possible up to three years, that tree has a much better chance of surviving and thriving.  Therefore I would like to take hold of this opportunity to say in all earnestness that we need your help by volunteering to adopt a tree to help ensure that it will grow.  Caring for a tree does not need to include any more than the very basics of weeding, mulching and most importantly regular watering from spring through the beginning of the fall.  If you are interested in adopting a tree, please feel free contact me at either dwellman4@verizon.net or 877-2147.  I will acknowledge your interest and then get back to you in the spring of 2010. 

            I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the SUNY ESF students and friends of Thornden Park who showed up on the early side of a Saturday morning and got the job done.  What an exhilarating experience to visualize these trees growing into stately maturity and to imagine the positive impact they will have on the environment and beauty of the park giving back so much to us all for years and years to come!

Over the past 25 years the Thornden Park Association, in partnership with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Services, has been working to address Thornden Park’s mature tree canopy. Many of these old trees date back to when the Thornden was transformed from a private estate to a public park in the 1920’s and 1930’s. 

For many reasons the survival rate of the trees we have planted has not been good. This year we are asking residents to help in our effort to ensure that more of the young trees survive. Our dream is for each young tree to receive tender loving care for the first five years if its life.

This week children, in grades 1 through 3, from Thornden’s Discovery Camp joined in this effort. They removed the sod from around a sugar maple, replaced it with mulch, and carried gallons of water to place in the “gator” that we placed around their tree.

Pink ribbons tied on the trees indicate they are being loved. Thank you to Ellen Somers, Andy and Amy Ford, Miranda and Jonas Hine, Grace Flusche, Dale Avers and the Discovery Camp children. If you would like to take care of a tree call Miranda Hine, 478-5164 or e-mail miranda@twcny.rr.com.






Pulling Weeds Around the Park

Spring weeding at the Lily Pond got off to inspiring start on Saturday, May 2nd with SUNY ESF’s Sigma Lambda Alpha Honorary Society for Landscape Architecture. Thanks to George Curry and his crew for volunteering over 30 hours!

Thanks to Ellen Somers, Grace Flusche, Andy and Amy Ford, Tim Rice and Margi Nasemann we put in 14 hours of work at the Madison Avenue beds and the Carriage House. Mostly we weeded, pulled bind wind and maple seedlings under the trees. We did have the pleasure of planting one flat of annuals at the Madison Bed. Andy got inspired and swept half of the huge flight of stairs leading from the Carriage House to the Winter Walk.

If anyone has plants that like it dry and very shaded, one bed around the Carriage House is almost empty. None of the plants we originally planted have survived.

I have also heard from a number of people interested in caring for one or more of the newly planted trees. Thank you to Grace Flusche and Dale Avers (2 trees); Andy and Amy Ford (1 tree) Ellen Somers (1 tree) Miranda Hine (3 trees) I will be marking their trees so we know which ones they are!

Next Weeding Date: 3 pm at the Lily Pond: June 7th.

Chili Bowl Festival

Thanks to the donors who made our 2006 Chili Bowl Festival a success!

A lá Mode, Beak & Skiff, Blue Prints Dog Studio, Byrne Dairy, Gianelli Sausage, Jerry's Florist, Johnny's Pizza, The Marx Hotel, Middle Ages Brewing Company, Mom's Diner, New York Bold, Onions, Nottingham Pet Clinic, Pam McGrath, Phoebe’s Garden Café, E J Wren, P & C, Real Food Co-op, Geddes Federal Savings & Loan, Skytop Liquors, Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union ,Syracuse Stage, Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, University Christian Fellowship, The Up Center, Wegmans, Westcott Florist, Wingz

Shakespeare in the Park