Darien’s Beautification Commission gets busy
DARIEN — In Tuesday’s late afternoon heat near the train tracks on Squab Lane, a group of five volunteers toiled at different inclines on the hillside, tearing up weeds and tending to a tract of land that, since the bloom of spring, had become overgrown.
The goal of the project is to beautify a strip of hillside that runs parallel to the Metro-North train station. It is a project that has been ongoing for six or seven years, a Sisyphean task that starts anew each summer and requires a dedicated coalition of workers.
“We have two kinds of volunteers,” Schutte said of her team. “People with project management skills, and people who, instead of spending two hours at the gym working out, will come out here.”
Most people, she said, are retired. But a large number of people still in the work force volunteer on weekends. According to Schutte, more than 200 people came to help out at the commission’s annual Earth Day event earlier this year.
The commission itself consists of 13 members. Some work as real estate agents and advertising consultants. Others are active members of area nonprofits and business owners.
All are volunteers.
For Qua, situated near the top of the hill closest to the the train station, garnering stares from rail riders, participation is compulsory. He regularly accompanies his wife on such outings.
Miller, who was working on a particularly overgrown patch near the bottom of the hill next to Smith, has always been drawn to the outdoors.
“I’ve taught for 23 years at the Nature Center and I’ve always wanted to join the commission,” said Miller, who has been a volunteer for about 18 months.
Schutte, who has chaired the commission for 10 years, took an especially surprising route to the commission.
“I was an executive on Wall Street for about 32 years,” she said. “Except for an interest in gardening, I had no landscaping experience.”
On this particular day, the quintet had allotted two hours for sprucing up the area and, despite the heat and visible perspiration, the group was in high spirits.
According to Schutte, the group eventually hopes to plant low shrubs such as Juniper that are durable, and bring back milkweed that’s been choked out by bindweed, poison ivy and mile-a-minute weed.
Success could mean the resurgence of the endangered monarch butterfly that subsists on milkweed. But at that moment, the work was all pulling weeds.
“It’s constant sweating,” Schutte said before continuing her work.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Schutte at email@example.com.