By Jada Butler
The gardens behind the Winnick Mansion are among many of the campus’ treasures. Recently, it seems the grounds have been neglected. Photographers and photo shoots can always be seen around the mansion, yet the state of the area could be improved, according to Shawn Welnak, assistant professor of Philosophy, and his Post 101 seminar class.
The idea to create a service project with a focus on the grounds surrounding the Winnick Mansion came to Welnak three weeks prior to the service day, which took place on Wednesday, Oct, 12. From his office in suite 205 of the mansion, Welnak could see it overcome with weeds and garbage. “We have a door in our seminar that opens to a view of the garden,” he said.
He introduced the service project to his first year seminar class as a first step in a potential series of service and care to the Winnick gardens. “This could be a place on campus that could be magical,” Welnak said.
On Oct. 12, the students worked from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. pulling weeds, de-rooting dead plants and bushes, and removing discarded beer bottles, cups and cans. At least one staff member of the facilities services was with the group at all times, offering information on how to care for certain trees, plants, or bushes.
“[We had] filled a whole truck of weeds, debris, and garbage,” Welnak said. The class received the truck, garden trowels, a wheelbarrow, and garbage bags from campus.
A class of 30 students worked alongside each other, listening to music as they restored the garden. “It’s easier and more fun with other people,” said Kesnel Chery, a junior psychology major. Many students working on the service project felt that they bonded with their classmates through the project—an unexpected, but desired outcome for Welnak. “It was wonderful to work in nature and give back to the community,” said Jenna Lombardo, a freshman criminal justice major.
Areas once occupied by weeds and dead plants are now pruned and covered by mulch made on campus from old and fallen trees. Lynn Minutaglio-Schmitt, Environment, Health and Safety manager, had the Buildings and Grounds crew get the mulch needed for the project. The mulch gave the garden a cleaner look.
Welnak’s plans for the garden go beyond a decent cleaning. “I wanted something that they could leave and go, ‘wow,’” he said. He wants to achieve a “next level” of care by continuing the gardening project with each new first-year seminar. He feels the project will introduce the campus to the students and help them get them get along and form connections, and each year (or semester), there will be new additions to the garden.
“I want to take personal responsibility for this area,” Welnak said. He aims to secure a donor to give funds to supply new bushes that line the stone paths. Originally bordered by boxwood bushes, a type of bush that does not do well in the Long Island climate, the bushed had died off. Welnak hopes to replace them with ilex bushes, which can withstand the weather.
The full day project achieved Welnak’s goal of renewing the garden.
Nicolette Agostinacchio, a freshman business management major, said, “We had taken something ugly and made it beautiful.”