Fort Ontario clean up set for May 3

Saturday, May 3 marks the third annual I LOVE MY PARK Day at Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Oswego.

I Love My Park Day is a statewide event to improve and enhance New York’s state parks and historic sites, bringing visibility to the entire state park system and its needs.

Volunteers from across the state will participate in cleanup, improvement and beautification events at New York state parks and historic sites.

Last year, Fort Ontario had one of the highest turnouts across the state with at least 80 volunteers showing up on I LOVE MY PARK DAY to help ready the fort for the 2013 season.

Coordinators are looking forward to doubling that number in 2014.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with work to start by 9 a.m. There will be assignments available for all ages and abilities.

General projects scheduled for I LOVE MY PARK Day include:

** Readying buildings for the 2014 season – sweeping, dusting, mopping and returning exhibits to buildings from winter storage

** Painting – the  exterior of Officer Quarters’ privy as well as the fort’s many benches

** Landscaping/clean-up -– trimming of hedges and bushes inside old fort, weeding and mulching flowerbeds in parking lots, cleaning up sticks, branches, and winter debris throughout the grounds, edging  sidewalks and pulling young weeds that grow among the stonework of the old fort.

In addition to these yearly tasks, the support garnered from I LOVE MY PARK Day 2013 has prompted organizers to plan three larger scale projects this year.

Cuts in both staffing and budgets in recent years have resulted in an overgrowth on the bluff overlooking Lake Ontario, which threatens to completely occlude views of the lake.

With enough volunteers on May 3, officials hope significant clearing can be done that will benefit literally thousands of people who use the grounds of Fort Ontario annually.

The second large scale project planned for the event is straightening headstones in the Post Cemetery. Many of the stones in the historic cemetery are leaning and in danger of falling over.

As this little cemetery is also visited by thousands of people per year, this small improvement will impact visitors throughout the entire year.

Finally, a replacement entry sign for Fort Ontario has been received over the winter and what better time to install it than on I LOVE MY PARK Day? Not only will the new sign and framework be erected, a new flower bed at its base is being designed to enhance the entrance to the fort’s main parking lot.

Everyone is needed on at Fort Ontario on I LOVE MY PARK Day. Scout troops, youth groups, sports teams, school clubs and civic organizations are all definitely welcome.

Bringing your own tools is highly encouraged although only hand tools are allowed (no power tools). Volunteers are advised to wear appropriate footwear, sunglasses and hats when working outside and consider wearing an extra layer of warmth as it is usually slightly cooler on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Feel free to bring your own water and snack, although a light lunch will be provided through our faithful sponsor Marks Pizzeria of Oswego.

In addition to volunteers, organizers are also looking for area businesses and individuals interested in donating supplies and/or tools to help make Fort Ontario’s third I LOVE MY PARK Day event a rousing success.

Kindness will be acknowledged by recognizing you as an official sponsor of the event. Individuals with expertise or backgrounds in forestry, landscaping or cemetery preservation willing to help lead project teams are also needed.

If you are interested in supporting Fort Ontario’s I LOVE MY PARK Day in either of these two ways, call  Ron Healt at 343-4711 or email him at ronald.healt@parks.ny.gov.

Those interested in volunteering for any of Fort Ontario’s I LOVE MY PARK DAY projects may pre-register for the event at  www.ptny.org/ilovemypark, or by emailing Jenny Emmons, event coordinator, at jenny.emmons@parks.ny.gov  or calling 343-4711.

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