Jun 01, 2012 Stephanie Bouvia Uncategorized
Melanie Uhlig views herself as a protector of sorts.
The 52-year-old Fayetteville woman is one of 30 residents who are volunteering their time to patrol the Manlius Swan Pond 24 hours a day in order to protect the swans, Manny and Faye, and their eggs.
“It makes you feel good protecting them,” Uhlig said. “They need somebody protecting them.”
The “Swan Patrol” was organized just days after a Jamesville man destroyed the first batch of swan eggs. On Wednesday, April 25, Ross Leone, 33, was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, petit larceny, third-degree criminal trespassing, fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and interference with fish and wildlife.
Immediately after the incident, residents began organizing a team to help protect the swans and their recently laid eggs.
The 24-hour operation takes a lot of commitment. Typically, volunteers take two-hour shifts to watch the ponds. So far, Uhlig said, the residents seem to fully support the efforts of the Swan Patrol.
“I’ve had many people thank me, ask me as they’re walking by if I’m on the swan watch, and I say, ‘Yes,’ and they thank me,” she said.
So far, Uhlig said she hasn’t seen any suspicious activity by the pond. Swan Patrol coordinator Laurie Venditti said the only activity volunteers have reported has been very minor. She said on one occasion, a few high school students were disturbing the area, and fooling around.
“Just having the volunteers and their presence here acts as a deterrent,” Venditti said.
A video surveillance system will also be installed in the area soon, Venditti said. Organizers of that project were hoping to have them installed last week, but extra cabling was needed, she said. They hope to finish installing the system this week.
Venditti said the patrol effort involves many people, including resident volunteers and members of the Manlius Police Department. She said the patrol team does report to the police, and officers are aware of the Swan Patrol’s presence at the pond.
Although it is a major effort on the part of many, to Venditti, it’s all worth it.
“The Swan Pond, to me, is an icon here in the village,” she said. “The Swan Pond’s been part of my life forever.”
Larissa Brenner, 32, of Manlius, another member of the Swan Patrol, is planning on compiling a book of observations and experiences had by the various patrol volunteers. The book, once finished, would be sold and proceeds would support the Swan Pond.
“Even just on my first shift… I was on with two other women that I’d never met before, and we all had different reasons for wanting to be there, and I thought, ‘I bet everybody has a different reason, and it would be really neat to hear everybody’s thoughts,’” she said.
Brenner’s reason for volunteering to patrol the pond was inspired by her three-year-old son. She said the pond is a special place that she and her family enjoy spending time at, and when the first batch of eggs were destroyed, her son’s reaction motivated her to volunteer to watch the area.
“The day after the eggs had been smashed, he asked me if we could go visit the eggs and visit the mom, and I had to tell him what happened. And his lip started quivering and he got tears in his eyes, and I could tell he was trying really hard not to cry, and he just said, ‘That mommy must be so sad,’” Brenner said.
The Swan Pond is an iconic and special location for many residents, Brenner said, and it allows people to connect to the environment, something that is hard to come by in many villages.
“I think it helps our village feel more connected to nature,” she said. “There’s this little beautiful piece of nature here, and it makes you feel like you’re kind of in a getaway place.”