When looking for ways to best spend $5.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds, Rochester officials were inspired by a successful program from the past.
Of a proposed $1.9 million investment in people-oriented programs, the city plans to allot $750,000 toward creating a conservation corps. The program mirrors the hugely successful Civilian Conservation Corps, which put more than 3 million men to work during the Great Depression and left a legacy of new roads, bridges and buildings across the country.
The Rochester plan would hire people facing employment challenges due to the pandemic and put them to work for the Rochester Parks and Recreation Department. Work would focus on tree planting, invasive species management and park cleanup.
"While our great staff does perform some of this work, there is just too much work for our current staffing levels," said Michael Nigbur, park and forestry division head for the parks department.
The idea behind the program is to get people working and came from city administration, Nigbur said.
The goal is to plant 1,000 trees in parks and boulevards, remove invasive buckthorn from Quarry Hill and Bear Creek parks and provide general clean up, such as litter removal, mulching around trees and filling potholes.
"Having very few seasonal staff this year further strains the quality of our parks," Nigur said, adding that the department normally hires 40-50 seasonal workers, contracts with workers to perform specific tasks and calls on volunteers.
"These alternatives to expanded staffing have a big impact on our ability to provide a great park system," Nigbur said. "Our 35 permanent field staff can do wonders, but even they have limitations based on our vast system."
Applause to the Rochester City Administration for identifying the conservation corps concept and realizing that sometimes an oldie can be a goodie.