Hyde Park volunteers spring into action for town clean up

On two recent Saturdays, local volunteers put some time into making the town’s public spaces ready for spring.

The first weekend’s work, April 26, was spearheaded by the Hyde Park Visual Environment Committee, a nonprofit civic group that knows how to get things done — with garden tools, volunteers and big smiles.

Even though that Saturday started out overcast and damp, 17 VEC volunteers showed up at Park Plaza to receive instructions from Chairwoman Hilary Van Norstrand on where their services were needed to clear away winter debris and commence the annual spring clean-up that has helped enhance the main arterials in town for the past 10 years.

The group was assisted by the youth group from Hyde Park Methodist Church, led by Joseph Marrine. The church group concentrated their efforts on enhancing the flower garden areas in front of Town Hall, which they have adopted as an on-going project.

“We are just so happy with the increased interest in keeping the beauty of our environment intact,” Vice Chairwoman Monica Relyea told the Observer. Then she picked up her rake and headed to the Crossroads site where she joined John and Veronica Bickford and others to tidy up the sidewalk and garden beds.

Members of the Hyde Park Lions Club did their part to enhance the beautification of the community last weekend, when on May 3, at Hackett Hill Park, they planted dogwood trees, wild flowers and lilies as part of their Friends and Family Day.

Club President Barbara Gavin said, “We have three projects underway…they include the community beautification work here at Hackett; a water bottle refill program, which will help prevent the dispersing of plastic bottles into the environment; and a project to assist young people faced with medical problems associated with cancer.”

The Visual Environment Committee has been an active community-spirited organization since the 1970s when concern for maintaining the beautification of the local environment and historical sites was addressed by volunteers wanting to preserve Hyde Park’s character.

At issue in 1977 was the historical site of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill cottage when a developer planned to purchase the site for a planned nursing home. The plan was thwarted by a cooperative group effort and Val-Kill was designated a National Historical Site thanks to many residents who ignited action locally and in Washington, D.C.

Since that time, VEC has increased its efforts to preserve local historical sites, maintain the stonewalls along both the Route 9 and 9G corridors, and to help beautify the local environment.

Some of the committee’s programs include the annual spring and fall clean-ups, maintaining stonewalls, Hyde Park In Bloom garden tours, Home for the Holidays in December, and pocket gardens at several intersections along the main highways.

Today, the organization has more than 170 members. Recent projects have included preserving the historic front lawn of Haviland Middle School, planting trees along the Route 9 and 9G corridors, and establishing Hyde Park as a “daffodil” garden with the planting of thousands of bulbs that will soon be in full bloom.

The local Lions, part of the largest service organization worldwide, is seeking to expand its membership from its current enrollment of 43 members and looks to add more junior members to its current list of 15, who range in age from 10-18. The “Leos” meet at the Hackett Hill conference building on Thursdays at 6 pm. Those interested should contact Gavin at 845-454-4660.

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