Sprucing up a neglected gem

Volunteers brave the rain to remove trash from Tivoli Preserve

Section: Capital Region,  Page: D1

Date: Sunday, April 24, 2005

ALBANY - Nate Davis walks up to the edge of the 8-acre pond in the middle of Tivoli Preserve and stares at the geese cutting across its glassy turquoise surface. Nearby, a creek flows over a beaver dam. It's an urban landscape with no concrete. "We could be somewhere out in the middle of the Adirondacks," Davis said. "It's very therapeutic to be over here ... And it's only a hop, skip and a jump away from many people's residences."

About 15 volunteers with the W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center gathered Saturday to begin their annual cleanup at the 80-acre park on the edge of Arbor Hill. Though the rain had driven most of them away by midday, they did manage to fill several garbage bags with aluminum cans, paper cups and debris that had blown in during the winter.

Davis, director of the organization's urban community environmental programs, discussed the center's plans to petition the city to rename the preserve in honor of civil rights activist Emily Grisom, who was a founding member of the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corp. She died last month at age 76. Davis said the city had indicated plans to name the site of an African burial ground after her, but friends felt she would have been more pleased with the park.

"This is something that she championed for many years." Davis said.

The preserve has improved much since the center began its cleanup program six years ago. Davis recalled the place used to be littered with abandoned cars, old tires and discarded bikes.

Tivoli once was a reservoir for the city of Albany, but in the 1920s it began serving as an informal dump. At one time, the lake was so polluted from the nearby slaughterhouses that the water reportedly ran red. Even today, people are discouraged from swimming there.

Most of the junk is gone, but many people remain unaware of the marshy playground that lies behind Philip Livingston Magnet Academy. Other than a sign and a few tables at the end of Manning Boulevard, little advertising exists to give away the park's location.

Volunteers hope to soon repair the trail that winds down from Livingston to the pond. The path is badly eroded, with the black plastic tarp underneath showing in many spots. They had planned on pouring some sand, top soil and wood chips over it but weren't able to because of the rain.

"It's underutilized and under-served," Davis said.

Robert Lopez can be reached at 454-5030 or by e-mail at rlopez@timesunion.com.