The Renwick Wildwood: 1915 (Part Two)

-By Jane Graves, Historian

(See also Parts One and Three, and Fuertes Sanctuary Parts One and Two)

During 1914, the first year for which the Cayuga Bird Club was responsible for the Renwick Wildwood, access was limited due to the lack of trails and the necessity to wade across streams to get to the site. However, this lack of access was remedied during the spring of 1915 when the Board of Public Works approved funds for improvements.

The request for the improvements was made to the City by the CBC via the Ithaca Civic Improvement Association, of which Louis A. Fuertes was an active member. The Ithaca Journal reported in its April 15, 1915, issue that “To provide a substantial pathway and also to erect a rustic bridge in the bird preserve in the Renwick woods the commissioners appropriated $100. These improvements have been suggested by the Cayuga Bird Club and Mayor Tree urged the commissioners last night to honor the request, saying that it was a worthy one. The small bridge will span a small fork of Fall Creek, which runs through the park.”

In its April 17 issue, the Ithaca Journal reported that “the Civic Improvement Association is gratified that the Board of Public Works appropriated $100 for the erection of a rustic bridge and other improvements in the city Bird Reserve and park under the auspices of the Cayuga Bird Club. With the closing of Renwick as a public park, this bird park will prove popular with Ithacans, many of whom are unaware that such a delightful natural scenic spot exists.”

By early May the bridge had been completed and, according to the May 4 issue of the Ithaca Journal, “is being used daily by hundreds of visitors to the park.”

The highlight of the spring season was a large event held on Arbor Day, Friday, May 7, when the afternoon session of every school in Ithaca as well as Fall Creek was devoted to improvements to the Wildwood. According to the May 5 Ithaca Journal, “The schools have been divided into three divisions.... Everyone is to arrive at the Athletic Ground at 2 p.m. sharp. Here an attractive program of athletic events for the boys and games for the girls have been arranged. Division A will go to the Wildwood at 2 p.m. At 2:45 p.m. a trumpet will blow and all children of Division A will return to the Athletic Ground, and Division B will go into the woods. At 3:30 p.m., in the same way, Division B will return and Division C will have their turn in the woods…..The work in the Wildwood has been divided into four brigades: (1) The Forestry Brigade, for boys only. They should be provided with jackknives. (2) The Fire Rangers, for boys only. These should bring hatchets and matches. (3) The Gardeners. Trowels will be supplied. (4) The Bird Scouts.”

The headline in the article covering this event in the May 8 Ithaca Journal reads “Eight Hundred Children Enjoy Big Field Day…Arbor Day Celebration in Renwick Wildwood a Big Success – Games on Athletic Grounds – Much Good Work Accomplished.” It follows: “The project was a great success and the children worked hard and accomplished a great deal in planting, cleaning up, putting up signs, and bird boxes…About twenty older people under the direction of Professor J. G. Needham and L. A. Fuertes had previously visited the woods a number of times and had planned the work to be done in a systematic way so that everything went off without a hitch……. Louis A. Fuertes spent the afternoon with the children giving them interesting points on the lives of birds in this vicinity. The children of the Central School had been busy making nesting boxes for the birds all the week and these they took to the woods after placing their name on the box. A permanent record of the birds which nest in each box will be kept.”

One of the “Bird Scout” Brigades with their hand-made bird boxes (Reprinted from Bird Lore, vol. 17, Sep-Oct 1915)

President Fuertes Speaks to One of the Groups of School Children and Parents during the 1915 Arbor Day/Cayuga Bird Club Field Day at the Renwick Wildwood (Reprinted from Bird Lore, vol. 17, Sep-Oct 1915)

In Fuertes’ essay on the Wildwood in the New York State Museum Bulletin, n187, July 1, 1916, he reports in more detail about the “constructive labor, planting water lilies, forget-me-nots, iris, etc., in the back waters; burning brush in open places; trimming out the young shoots of spicebush over several acres of cutting; putting up signs against shooting; building fires; and placing nest boxes in good places.”

Next (Part Three): The Renwick Wildwood: 1916-1917