Volunteers needed to transform the historic LeRay Mansion grounds Oct. 13

FORT DRUM, NY — Fort Drum is the recipient of a National Public Lands Day Department of Defense Award, submitted by the Cultural Resources and Natural Resources branches of Fort Drum Public Works, to fund a beautification project at the LeRay Mansion from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday October 13.  Volunteers are need to transform the mansion grounds.

Heather Wagner, Cultural Resources outreach and education coordinator, said that applicants were encouraged to create a project to restore natural and/or cultural resources on post and include the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

To meet that criteria, they proposed a “Beautify LeRay Day” with the goal of transforming the landscape outside LeRay Mansion with all-season flower gardens and a mini-apple orchard that will attract, shelter and nourish migratory and resident bird populations.

Staff members and volunteers will plant seeds, bulbs and trees and assist with maintenance of the walking trails. Bird feeders will dot the landscape to ensure bird populations continue to have food and shelter during the winter months.

“There’s something about planting a garden and allowing the public to join in that makes everyone feel like stakeholders in the district, and that’s what we try to do on the historical tours,” Wagner said. “It’s one thing to have four people from the Cultural Resources branch care about this history, but it’s much more powerful when we invite hundreds of community members here and now they care because we have shared this history with them and this is shared community space.”

Wagner said that volunteers of all ages and capabilities are welcome, and that all materials will be provided on site. She said that the restoration of the gardens and walking trails is symbolic of what James LeRay de Chaumont intended when the mansion was built in 1826.
In a sense, “Beautify LeRay Day” allows people to create some history of their own as the gardens become an indelible part of the district for years to come.

“Beautify LeRay Day” will kick off with a short ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:15 a.m. to introduce the community to the new conservation park and Natural Resources and Cultural Center.

The Cultural Resources staff has relocated their offices to the LeRay Mansion Historic District so they can promote more public events. The Natural Resources branch also will have a greater presence, as the caretaker’s cottage will be used as an education center for environmental and natural history information.

Anyone interested in volunteering must pre-register no later than Friday October 5 at beautifyleray@gmail.com or call (315) 772-5463.