Letter to the editor

This letter has been edited only for grammar and AP style.

I wanted to take this chance to thank students who came out to help this weekend in the University Heights. It was UB’s Gettin' Dirty Day. I am a volunteer who routinely works several garden/cleanup projects in the neighborhood. It was my privilege to work with about 35 students on Main Street and at the Tyler/Winspear gardens. We mulched, swept and blew the winter grime away.

This isn’t my first encounter with student volunteers. I find them to be creative, energetic and extremely interesting. It’s always amazing how students from near and far show up to help out. At one event, a student had just come from China a couple of weeks before, knew no one and was volunteering to weed/clean up a community garden! I love the diversity!!! We could not have completed the volume of work that we did with just a few community members. It would have taken several weekends.

There’s always another side.

I wanted to use this opportunity to engage students for the sake of the community. First, a little bit of history. I started out gardening in the medians on Main Street. The Department of Transportation had constructed them, repaired/repaved the streets and planted the entire area with trees and shrubs. There was no provision for maintenance. The weeds were as tall as the shrubs. The trees between sidewalks and curbs needed weeding. Most of the planters were empty, used as ashtrays. Garbage was regularly strewn everywhere.

Over a period of time, everything was cleaned out. At this time, the city has a basic maintenance program for the medians. I still assist with the medians, weed the tree pits and plant the planters. The money is provided by the University Heights Businessmen’s Association, University Heights Collaborative and Councilman Rasheed Wyatt. Early Sunday mornings, I clean up the garbage. People have questioned if I am doing community service. I assure you, I have a professional job. I, along with most residents of the area, care about what “kind” of neighborhood we live in. We welcome students and the energy that they bring to the neighborhood.

The paradox that I have witnessed includes caring, intelligent students who label themselves as environmentalists and “green” advocates vs. students who are drunk, out of control and trashing the neighborhood during their leisure time. Over the years, I have witnessed students jumping up to pull leaves and branches off the trees. My job is to saw them off in an appropriate manor to reduce further damage to the tree. Flowers are routinely ripped out of the planters. I have seen them given to girls, thrown on the ground and burned by vomit or liquor. When this is done, there is no money to replant. Funds for these endeavors are meager. Leftover food is routinely tossed on the sidewalks. The garbage cans have been vandalized beyond repair.

At this time of the year, celebrations and partying are rampant. I applaud your successes. I want to see you enjoy yourself. You deserve to let loose, but please remember this is a “neighborhood” that includes businesses, families and children. One Mother’s Day morning, at dawn (graduation day), I was cleaning up on Main Street only to encounter detectives following up on a murder. The last night of partying had turned deadly. Being the mother of a UB graduate, it has tainted the holiday ever since. It could have been my son, you or your best friend. Please be safe. Party wisely. If friends are out of control, beyond reason, stop them. Help them to safety. In helping them, you will help us keep the neighborhood safe, clean and a great place to live. Congratulations graduates, I wish you well.

Thanks again to all who volunteered last weekend,

Linda Garwol

Main Street Garden Group