Syracuse parks evolve with resident parkologists

The concept of a Syracuse Park Conservancy really came from the people. Eastwood resident Mike Behnke said, "I'm into all the parks here, I like to call myself a parkologist."

Behnke sits on a very active Sunnycrest Park Board, where all the members are self-proclaimed parkologists, or city residents who are passionate and actively involved in the evolution of all the neighborhood parks. Parkologists believe that the parks are meant for recreation, meditation and education in as natural a setting as can be honed in an urban environment. Behnke added that the parks are an important ingredient in the revitalization efforts in Syracuse.

"The Board of Directors is phenomenal (12 member board)," Behnke said, "And, at any given time, someone is always working in the park."

The board has finished a Sunnycrest Master Plan, which they accomplished through a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation. Now the board is working on Burnett Park's Master Plan. This all started through Eastwood's dynamic TNT Behnke said.

Was it difficult?

"Like birthing an elephant," Behnke said.

But it's complete and serves as a guide toward the park's future.

Conservancy and Pat Driscoll

The Syracuse New Times held a mayoral forum at the Palace Theatre sponsored by the Sunnycrest Park Association to discuss a Syracuse Park Conservancy. More than 100 residents came out to the debate Behnke said.

A conservancy, much like the one in Central Park, is a private non-profit private organization that works with the city to raise funds and help maintain the parks.

Essentially, it is a citizens group that works together with the City's Park and Recreation Department toward a vibrant and active parks system.

Behnke said the board didn't come away favoring one candidate over another, but instead would like to see Pat Driscoll stay on as head of Parks for whoever gets elected mayor.

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