Mar 27, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
What began as an idea to help the Westcott-area neighborhoods spruce up in appearance has morphed into a city-wide initiative of sorts.
Back in 2003, Pete Wirth, who has been active in the community around Westcott Street, developed an idea to give out free bulbs — namely daffodils — to those citizens who promise to plant the flowers in an area that can be seen by the entire community. Wirth said the biggest sticking point is that these are not handed out to be planted in a personal garden out of the public eye. Provided with the bulbs is free compost, donated by Toad Hollow, and information on how to properly plant and care for the flowers.
Nine years later, the entire city of Syracuse has taken notice, and Wirth expects the free bulbs handed out to surpass 100,000. Each October, after taking bulb orders from the community from outside the Westcott Community Center, Wirth and the three other members of the committee fill those orders, and in turn have helped make the Westcott area more colorful come spring time.
“Even though I don’t live in the neighborhood anymore, I still feel a strong connection to it,” said Wirth, who moved to Fayetteville in 1984 after owning a house in the Westcott neighborhood for years.
It grew slowly in the beginning, with about 2,000 bulbs planted in the inaugural year. In 2005, more than 200 residents of the Westcott neighborhood came and picked up about 8,500 bulbs.
Fast forward to 2010, and that year’s total was a staggering 22,000, while 2011 say more than 17,000 planted. The entire initiative is in correspondence with the Westcott Community Center, and a stroll by the building shows it. There’s a bed of bright yellow bloomers directly in front of the building, and next to the parking lot.
Wirth said a big part of the reason for starting this project was due to urban blight.
“Take urban blight for example,” he said. “When you plant flowers and they start to bloom when the weather gets nice in the spring … everything looks a lot prettier.”
The project is in conjunction, now, with Northside Urban Partnership, Skunk City Neighborhood Organization, Westside Initiative, the Women Transcending Boundaries: Acts of Kindness Project as well as 16 other local organizations.
“Once it took off, we decided to expand it all to include non-profit organizations,” Wirth said. “Students and parents got involved. The next level was to include the entire city.”
Last year was the first “Garden Extravaganza,” which Wirth said transformed the day to pick up the flowers into “a really festive atmosphere.” All proceeds from the party were given directly to the Community Center.
The key distinction in the expansion was that inside the Westcott neighborhood, it’s all fundraising efforts. For those who caught on throughout the rest of the city, it was a way to mimic the success already had by the Community Center.
Aside from making the community look nicer, Wirth said the initiative is a way to build the community as a whole and bring people together.
“Shirley [Humble, a member of the Skunk City Neighborhood Group,] got a lot more people working together to improve the neighborhoods and not for monetary gain,” Wirth said. “We’re always listening for more people and groups to help out. You don’t have to be a non-profit — you can get a group of friends from your neighborhood together and decide you want to spruce up where you live.”
Wirth summed up the entire project and gave his vision for the future.
“I hope the project continues to grow,” he said. “It’s something that anybody can do. In short, we can all make the environment nicer by planting these flowers. I just hope the idea grows to more groups and individuals and continues to expand.
“There’s no silver bullet that solves the economic problems in urban areas, but people can take ownership for their environment. Just plant these bulbs that will grow year after year.”
To learn more about the Westcott Neighborhood Bulb Project send an e-mail to pwirth@@verizon.net, call 637-0331, visit their web site at bulbproject.org or find them on Facebook at on.fb.me/r0LjU4.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.