Posts tagged Neighborhood MiniGrants

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Funds Trail Renovation in Dryden

Tompkins County contains a wealth of trails, but some have fallen into disrepair and disuse without the care they need. A wooded trail in the Town of Dryden, between the Varna Community Center and the adjacent Hillside Acres Mobile Home Park, went many years without maintenance and became overgrown to the point of near-impassability. In 2019, Jonathyn Thornton took on renovation of the trail as an Eagle Scout project, leading a team of volunteers who cleared it, covered it with wood chips, and added benches, kiosks, erosion control bars in areas impacted by runoff, a bridge over a washed-out culvert, and a “Nature Nook” with benches and a table. Sustainable Tompkins awarded Jonathyn a Neighborhood Mini-Grant in October 2019 to pay for the bridge and the table. 

Now the trail is four feet wide and frequently used, offering pedestrians a scenic alternative to walking along a busy roadway between the community center and the mobile home park. The Varna After School Program at the community center uses the Nature Nook as an outdoor enrichment space. Future plans include supplying the kiosks with pamphlets on the surrounding flora and fauna.

Varna residents attest to the trail’s value:

“Having that trail open connects the Center much better to Hillside Acres.  We’ve seen people using it for walking and jogging. Especially in a time when outdoor activities are much safer, it’s wonderful to have it. Working on the trail was a great way to get closer to Varna’s natural beauty, and find out just how much is back there!”

“The outdoor Nature Nook has been a wonderful place for learning and exploring. We utilize this space for our students in the after school program to get them outdoors. The kids really enjoy being in the space and have stated it is cool to listen to the birds and seeing the deer walk across the trail when they are quiet enough. We have incorporated many new nature programs into our afterschool program now that we have this new space and the wonderful trail to walk.”

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Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Outdoor Initiatives

Through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people continue to grow food, explore the outdoors, bring aid to their neighbors, and vote in elections. In October 2020, five Neighborhood Mini-Grants were awarded to Parents2Polls Tompkins, Ellis Hollow Nursery School, the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, The Village at Ithaca, and Khuba International.

Yael Saar, co-founder of Parents2Polls Tompkins, offered childcare while parents voted on Election Day.

Parents2Polls Tompkins is a nonpartisan volunteer-run initiative launched in fall 2020 to make in-person voting more accessible for all in Tompkins County. During the early voting period for the 2020 general election, volunteers at the two poll sites offered child and pet supervision, chairs, information, parking guidance, and other assistance to voters waiting in line. On Election Day, they provided voters with free drop-in childcare at the Southside Community Center. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant funded publicity for the project.

Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming is creating a pond on their Incubator Farm at EcoVillage Ithaca, with a solar-powered pump transferring water to an irrigation system and ending the farm’s costly dependence on municipal water. Created to provide short-term access to land and support for growers who face systemic barriers to starting businesses, the farm is currently used by 11 businesses — mostly ethnic Karen refugees from Burma — to grow vegetables, by Challenge Industries for the flower CSA run by the Ability in Bloom workforce development program, by the Groundswell Center to grow a “solidarity garden” of produce distributed to residents of West Village Apartments, and more. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the purchase of the solar pump.

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