ITHACA, N.Y. – After the intense storm of June 21 and continued rain and wind in the days immediately following, a bright spot was had when a group of locals joined the Friends of Stewart Park to aid DPW crews in their work fixing the aftermath of the damage. Though the park has since closed again as the onslaught of bad weather has continued, the spirit of the clean-up event signals sunny days ahead for Ithaca’s favorite park.

According to the Friends organization, over 100 volunteers showed up last Friday to help.  

“Once we got the okay from the city, we started spreading the word on social media,” Janelle Alvstad-Mattson, FoSP communications director said.

From 4 p.m. through 6 p.m. last Friday, volunteers from across the community came together to move fallen branches and leaves for DPW crews to later mulch with some even working before and after the requested time slot. Individuals brought their own rakes and yard work tools in conjunction with their own elbow grease.  

Various organizations from the Ithaca community who utilize the park regularly came out to help with the clean-up including the Ithaca League of Women Rollers, Ithaca Karate Harmony with Nature School and Ithaca Dragon Boat Club. 

“In the past year and a half we haven’t actually been able to participate in roller derby, so we’ve been using the Cayuga Waterfront Trail,” Jamie Stonemetz, skater with the Ithaca League of Women Rollers, said, “When we heard they were calling for people to come help clean-up we decided we would go lend a hand to sort of give back.”

Stonemetz described the clean-up as “quick” and said the amount of those who showed up definitely contributed to the efficiency of it.

The sheer mass of volunteers who took time out of their weekend to help has signaled to the FoSP who have been putting work into revitalizing the park over the last decade and have just begun celebrating its centennial this summer, just how much people have come to cherish the space.

“Stewart Park is really the people’s park…When tons of people come out to help the park, it builds community so much. It shows how much everyone appreciates the park but also how much everyone else wants others to enjoy the park,” Alvdstad-Mattson said.  

Sadly, despite efforts from volunteers, the damage left from the inclement weather of the past week on top of some of the big pieces volunteers were not able to move from the previous batch of storms has the park still classified as a hazard by the city, and some of the larger branches and trees must be moved before the park reopens for recreation and events. This includes Stewart Park’s Centennial Birthday Bash originally scheduled for this weekend, which has been postponed until July 11. 

Further updates can be seen on the Friends of Stewart Park website and social media.

Desiree Holz

Desiree Holz is an intern at the Ithaca Voice and a rising-junior journalism student at Ithaca College. Feel free to email her with tips!