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Caregivers of the town's pieces of nature



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April 29, 2014 | 01:02 PM
GENEVA — On Tuesday morning, April 22, four deer pranced across the vacant traffic lanes of County Highway H near Queen Road.

One block south, at Korona Park, five of the six commission members had gathered to kill two birds with one stone — April 22 was Earth Day, and Friday was Arbor Day. To celebrate both events, the commission planted a red maple tree that was paid for by the Geneva Town Board.

“There’s always deer out here,” said John DeBaere, vice president of the town’s park commission.

“If you sit here long enough, you’ll see some animals come through, also some birds,” said Judy Buldak, commission secretary.

DeBaere and Buldak would know because they live within walking distance of Korona Park.

“I always come down here and have lunch,” said Buldak, “just because it’s quiet and peaceful. It’s a chance to check on the park and nature. We like to watch birds, too.”

No one said that about the property that became Korona Park four years ago. “Korona was truly a dumping ground when it was donated to us … so we did a major cleanup of trash, dead trees, roots, stones and rocks,” said Lynn Wesolek, commission treasurer.

In addition to trimming the thicket of woods on the property, commission chairman Mike Sarton said they also found roofing tiles, cans and tires. “You couldn’t walk through there safely. … It was a convenient place where people would come by at night and just throw things out.”

The commission also remediated a creek that runs through the property, installed a small foot bridge over the creek and planted trees and ground cover.

Wesolek said they’re also working on trails.

“We want to maintain the park as a green space,” said Sarton.

Other parks

Korona Park is one of three areas of concentration for the commission. The other two are Charlotte Peterson Park and Ernie Roeker’s Trail, of the Duck Lake Nature Walk.

All three areas keep the commission busy.

“We had removed a rickety bridge and added a nice, substantial culvert … to the west end of the nature trail,” said Sarton.

In the past year, the commission also planted more trees and ground cover at Charlotte Peterson Park and installed a picnic table. Two benches were installed, signs were replaced on the Duck Lake walk and some clearing was done on the Roeker Trail.

“We hope to remove and reuse the wood in the boardwalk, possibly the benches or sign,” said Wesolek about the nature walk, “and fill the swampy area where the boardwalk currently is with gravel. We feel this will make it easier to walk on with no fear of slipping into the muck.”

She added that, budget permitting, they want to replace a couple of dead and dying trees in Charlotte Peterson Park.

It’s a lot of work for six people. So why do the commission members do it?

“I always enjoyed walking on the Duck Lake trail, but I got recruited by two other commissioners,” said Sarton. “It was actually while I was walking on the trail, so it was kind of hard for me to say no.”

Buldak said she wanted to make a difference in the community after seeing this group of people working to make the town special. “Preserving green space and making it serve a good use for the community seemed like the right fit for me. I had recently become unemployed and needed something positive to focus on. It also gave me the opportunity to meet others in our town.”

Sarton has been on the commission seven years, making him its senior member. “I like the work we do, and I particularly like the people.”

Although he was out of town on April 22, the other five members met to shovel mulch around the base of the new red maple tree at Korona Park.

They traded jokes and discussed ideas on how to improve the park. There was talk about putting in picnic tables and benches, but Wesolek and DeBaere said they would need to meet the requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act to do that.

It would cost more than what’s in the town’s budget to meet those requirements, they said.

But Wesolek shared her view of the park’s future. “I can still see little kids running around, jumping up and down (on) that bridge.”

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