In the years after receiving the Willow Patch as a donation, CPF has worked to make it a community resource. In 2003, Matt Potteiger of SUNY-ESF’s landscape architecture program received a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation to install a rain garden to catch and filter stormwater from the village. The feature serves to slow runoff and filter out sediments and other pollutants in a detention pool before the water joins Chittenango Creek. The woven willow sitting area near Mill Street adds to the historic willow theme. Later, Mike Hazer constructed the post-and-rail fence entrance off Willow Place as his Eagle Scout project. Another Eagle Scout project was Jake Gravelding’s construction of the boardwalk which connects the west end of the property to the dike trail, and provides visitors the opportunity to move through the willows while keeping their feet dry!
Aside from providing valuable resources and ecological services, the Willow Patch is also a source of inspiration and recreation for the community. In 2013, artist Elizabeth Schoonmaker built the giant Willow Basket sculpture. In 2015, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park loaned CPF the “Z” sculpture by artist Miriam Nelson. The sculpture was installed near the remains of the old coal chute, blending old and new features for visitors to enjoy.
Although CPF owns the Willow Patch, it is a community space and many local stewards help to maintain it. Nearby residents weed, collect trash, and keep an eye on beaver activity. In the summer of 2015, Bartlett Tree Experts collaborated with CPF to offer an educational workday. Master arborist Tom Mullarney demonstrated proper pruning techniques to the public before leading a volunteer crew to clear the historic coal chute area. A team of Bartlett workers also removed dead tree limbs near the Mill Street entrance. When the Willow Basket sculpture was vandalized in November 2015, concerned neighbors called the police and put a stop to the destruction.
The function of the Willow Patch has changed quite a bit over the years. It has been a mill pond, a source of raw materials, and now a quiet space within the Village for people and wildlife. In the years to come, CPF will continue to maintain the area and make improvements geared toward management and community recreation. Coming in 2016, CPF will install a new drainage pipe in Carpenter’s Pond, which will allow more control of water coming into the Willow Patch. Don’t forget to check back for future updates: as always, the story of this dynamic space is to be continued…
Photos: Top left: volunteers install Willlow Basket Sculpture in 2013. Lower left: Children from the Caz Rec Program enjoy the Z sculpture while on a CPF photo scavenger hunt in 2015. Right: Local Eagle Scouts work to install the Willow Patch boardwalk. All from the CPF archives.