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Saratoga Springs conservationists, BOCES students create new greenspace

Local non-profits and students unveiled a new shed and greenspace in Saratoga Springs this week.

It’s a cloudy Thursday morning, and SoBro — or South Broadway — Conservancy organizers, BOCES students, and locals have gathered by one of Saratoga Springs’ busiest intersections.

They’re here to celebrate the completion of phase one of revitalizing an otherwise unremarkable plot where Circular Street, Ballston Avenue, and Broadway meet.

SoBro Conservancy President Tom Denny.

“Yeah, SoBro Conservancy picked this intersection and this parcel in part because it is so busy and so visible and we thought it would have more impact both from the point of view of just beautification but also from the point of view of the educational potential. If we’re modeling a habitat or ecological kind of planting and we’re moving the needle a little bit in that direction having a conspicuous visible plot on which to demonstrate that and model that was a big part of it,” said Denny.

A few days before, dozens of volunteers planted more than 600 native and pollinator friendly shrubs and flowers, helping remediated the plot.

Denny says more than 30,000 cars pass through the intersection each day, meaning this sustainability and beautification project will be seen by far more eyes than other nearby initiatives.

“They aren’t next to the heart of downtown where there’s pedestrian traffic and all of the people who go to SPAC. So, in that sense I think it really does give us an opportunity to bring the attention to the kinds of gardening that we’re hoping to accomplish that’s so good for the food web and the pollinators and song birds and all of that,” said Denny.

Spread across three raised gardens are different species of milkweed — host plants for monarch caterpillars — as well as red twig Dogwood shrubs, penstemons, and a handful of native grasses.

And now, a shed is ready to store gardening equipment and the hardware for the plot’s sprinklers that more than a dozen students from the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES program helped construct.

Southern Adirondack Education Center instructor John Coffinger led the students’ work.

“I find a sense a pride, you know, just to see the kids sit back. And they can drive by and they can point out to people, ‘I built that.’ And it’s a nice sense of pride for them,” said Coffinger.

Coffinger says opportunities like this project help students plan their futures.

“And this gives them an introduction to whether or not they do want to get into the trades or not. And all of the kids that I have with me, it’s nice, they’re the people that stepped up and did want to come today. And they’re gonna go into the trade some day,” said Coffinger.

Austin Dickinson was one of more than 30 students who worked on the shed.

“Yeah, we built the shed, but we also built a memory. We had a lot of fun laughs building this, we took our time, you know, we made it something that we could really remember and really impact us and the community, and that was our goal,” said Dickinson.

Julia Shattuck is a Queensbury High School junior in her first year of the BOCES program.

“So, I plan on going to college after my senior year. I plan on doing project management but this helps me get the ground idea of how things are built so I can help the team out,” said Shattuck.

The SoBro Conservancy is planning additional planting phases to completely fill the lot by the summer of 2025.

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