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Revitalize planting seeds of hope in city

Gardens planted at Sixth Street entrance to Dunkirk High School's Bicentennial Park by Revitalize Dunkirk and Academy Heights Neighborhood Association volunteers; benches, bike rack and trash can paid for with NCCF grant.

Most of the community knows that Dunkirk’s brightly colored, downtown hanging flowers are a project initiated by Revitalize Dunkirk and paid for by hundreds of generous donors through the fundraising efforts of its Beautification Committee. Few may realize that the committee’s 20 active members also engage in other civic beautification efforts including tree planting and creating and maintaining gardens at a variety of public sites.

To raise money for these projects, Revitalize Dunkirk held its second annual plant sale on June 13, at the Fredonia Technology Incubator. Dozens of mask-wearing shoppers found hundreds of plant divisions and seedlings from members’ and friends’ gardens to spruce up their own yards at bargain rates.

One program supported by these plant sales is Adopt-a-Garden, developed three years ago in cooperation with city officials, in which volunteers assume responsibility for planting and maintaining several raised flower beds, built during previous administrations on city property, which had not contained any plantings for many years.

Noticing these empty sites, Revitalize Dunkirk volunteers requested and received permission to plan, plant and maintain them. The empty sites approved for volunteer adoption were at some of the “Welcome to Dunkirk” signs located at the city limits, as well as at city signage in Washington and Wright parks, and the lake front bike path between the Clarion and the Steger Apartments.

The volunteers also noticed that some citizens had taken the initiative to plant flowers or shrubs in front of several Dunkirk “welcome” signs where there were no raised beds or other well-defined planting areas. Grass and weeds crept in soon after these plantings, making them less than neat and attractive. “Because of this,” explains Mary Rees, Revitalize Dunkirk Beautification Committee Chair, “we asked permission to build additional raised beds at four city limit signs that lacked them–on Route 60 near the fire hall; on Brigham Road; Lake Shore Drive West; and Roberts Road–and add them to the list of city-approved Adopt-a-Garden sites.” In 2018 and 2019, teams of volunteers completed builds at each site in just a few hours.

Funding for materials for the new raised beds came from a 2018 Keep Western New York Beautiful grant, which also paid for the purchase of three young trees in 2019 for the pocket park on city property at Bataan and Central Avenues. “It bothered us that this plot contained two benches but no shade trees, so we asked permission from City Hall to plant some. This year we received an Environmental Fund grant from the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF) specifically for tree planting and were able to add more trees and three shrubs to this site,” says Rees. “I look forward to seeing them grow big enough to provide shade for people using those benches to rest on their walks down Central Avenue,” she adds.

This year’s NCCF grant allowed the planting this spring of at least one tree in each of the city’s wards: Northern pin oaks in Washington and Kosciuszko parks; two sassafras trees at Bataan Ave. and one in Wright Park; a river birch at Bataan; two thornless honey locusts in the Washington Ave. right-of-way next to the city parking lot; and a showy mountain ash in the right-of-way by the Robo parking lot on Fifth Street.

In addition, two American cranberry bushes and a spice bush — which, like sassafras and river birch, are both native to Chautauqua County–were planted at the Bataan site. Whenever practical, based on availability, site conditions and cost, Revitalize Dunkirk prefers to use native plants in its projects because of their ecological benefits. Tree choice is also guided by recommendations in the Tree Management Plan for the City of Dunkirk completed in November 2019 by Davey Resource Group. The report includes lists of appropriate tall, medium and short tree species for a variety of site conditions.

Revitalize Dunkirk Beautification Committee volunteers also maintain a variety of other gardens on public, (but not city-owned) property, such as many of the street-side and corner gardens on West Fifth and Sixth streets; on Brooks Hospital property at the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street; on Dunkirk Housing Authority grounds behind the Steger Apts.; and on Dunkirk Public School property at Bicentennial Park on Sixth Street, next to Crooked Brook. Most of these gardens are low-cost to plant and maintain because they are largely filled with perennial divisions from members’ home gardens, but some top soil, mulch, additional perennials and annual bedding plants are purchased each year to keep them looking good.

Revitalize Dunkirk, Inc., is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with a mission of advocating for improved urban living by enhancing the City’s physical infrastructure, reinvigorating commerce, and boosting community pride and vision. The organization promotes projects to beautify the community through public landscaping and art, enhanced streetscapes, and community involvement, with a goal of increasing business, tourism and residential opportunities.

Before COVID-19, Revitalize Dunkirk met on the third Thursday of each month except December, 6:30 p.m., at the Fredonia Technology Incubator, 214 Central Ave., Dunkirk.

When meetings resume, all members of the community who share the organization’s concerns are welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information in general, or to learn when meetings will resume, visit us on FaceBook or at: www.revitalizedunkirk.com.

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