The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Committee discusses gardening projects for Tompkins County

Martha Gioumousis leads the meeting on April 6 by demonstrating to volunteers of the beautification program how to use basic gardening tools.
by Sara Kim and Annie Uhle

A semi-retired business owner, Kristin Lovelace-Ross recently has more free time since decreasing her work hours. In her free time, she cares for her own flower and vegetable garden.

With the hope for meeting new community members and learning more about flower gardening, Lovelace-Ross joined the list of volunteers that will help beautify various areas of Tompkins County in order to learn more about the area’s landscapes.

Founded in 2002, the Tompkins County Community Beautification Program is supported by the Tompkins County Tourism Program and the area’s hotel room tax, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension website.

The program’s volunteer committee held their final meeting on April 6 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension to discuss upcoming plans for the spring and summer seasons. The meeting consisted of a dinner, an overview of the program, gardening safety when working close to busy streets, proper use of gardening tools, and sample projects to complete over the course of the year.

Martha Gioumousis, who led the meeting, is the coordinator of the beautification program, and she said the mission of the program is to maintain the landscape of Tompkins County and Ithaca through gardening.

“The mission is to beautify the county but specifically downtown Ithaca. Beautifying for us is planting flowers, planting shrubs, putting beautiful sites into the downtown urban area with plants.” Gioumousis said.

She said one unique aspect of the program is the number of volunteers, who display a variety of skill sets and experience levels.

“We work with so many volunteers. Many were here for the first time. They come to the program with lots of gardening experience, no gardening experience, some gardening experience and we teach them the basics of how to grow and plant plants and how to maintain the same plants,” Gioumousis said. She said she considers this the strength of the program.

At the meeting, Gioumousis highlighted the various tools the volunteers would be using throughout their work with local gardens and projects. These tools include shovels, snippers, hori hori knives and pruners, along with gloves and wheelbarrows for weeding and mulching the landscapes.


The volunteers, called the “Beautification Brigade,” work mainly with the plants located on the Commons and in city traffic medians.

Monika Roth, a supervisor of the program explained how it was formed as part of Ithaca’s Bicentennial Committee to beautify the community for the Bicentennial in 2004.

“After the Bicentennial the committee kept meeting until we finally got room tax funding to create the beautification position to coordinate plantings in the city and to work with rural communities. We have been operating the program ever since.”

Gioumousis explained how the program has grown. “We’re always growing and changing. We have bigger goals now. We have a hard time saying ‘no’ so we’re always adding new sites. “

She also mentioned the positive impact it has had on the community and the volunteers, particularly students.

“We’re bringing more and more student groups to work with us, it’s really exciting because some of these young people have never planted before. It’s really exciting to get people excited about plants, once they’ve worked on a site, it’s in the public and they can come back all summer long and see the work that they did and how it makes a difference in the downtown area.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *