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Archives for September 26, 2017

Proposed funding plan unveiled for River Common park in Wilkes-Barre

The River Common recreation area in downtown Wilkes-Barre deserves more attention and appreciation, several officials said during a Monday announcement of proposed new funding.

“Look at this beautiful park,” said Larry Newman, head of the Diamond City Partnership downtown revitalization alliance. “It is high time that we as a community took full advantage of this asset — this gift that we have been given as a community.”

The Luzerne County-owned park along the Susquehanna River underwent a $23 million revamping unveiled in 2009 that included a new 750-seat amphitheater, fishing pier/landing, and extensive landscaping.

Critics have complained the park is insufficiently maintained and underutilized.

The county is responsible for park maintenance, which has declined due to the elimination of an outside landscaping contract to save money and past county building and ground layoffs that have made it more difficult for staffers to keep up with mowing.

Beefing up programming has always been a challenge because the county relies on the all-volunteer Riverfront Parks Committee to arrange, oversee and obtain funds for events.

Monday’s gathering formally announced that King’s College and Wilkes University have each agreed to provide $20,000 annually for the next five years to help fund existing and new events if county council pledges $10,000 of its natural-gas recreation funding per year during the same period for trimming, weeding, manicuring and other park maintenance.

In addition to the county’s $10,000 earmark, the county operational services division must continue handling grass cutting, garbage collection, light fixture upkeep and other basic maintenance, according to the proposed cooperation agreement.

Council members are scheduled to vote on the $10,000 allocation along with outside requests for natural-gas recreation funding at their Oct. 10 meeting, county Manager C. David Pedri said during Monday’s announcement at the park, which runs from the county courthouse to the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center.

Pedri said he observed dozens walking and enjoying the park as he awaited the announcement, and he praised the educational institutions for voluntarily choosing to assist.

John Loyack, chief financial officer at King’s, said collaboration is important.

“This is a great example of being able to get people of diverse backgrounds together to rally around a common issue that will be good for our citizens and for the colleges and our students,” Loyack said, crediting Newman for initiating the discussion.

Michael J. Wood, special assistant to the president at Wilkes, said the agreement will allow the committee to focus on events and ensure the park is properly maintained.

The park is the “front yard” for approximately 3,000 Wilkes students and workers, he said.

Riverfront Parks representative John Maday said he and others are brainstorming ideas for additional concerts and new events and will be accepting suggestions.

The cooperation agreement would take effect in 2018 and require the committee to create three additional voting positions on its board of directors to be filled by a representative of the county, King’s and Wilkes. Once a year, the committee would be required to present its plans for the funds to county council and the boards of both education institutions.

The committee would recommend a landscaping maintenance schedule, and county staffers must work cooperatively to address any maintenance issues before scheduled events, the agreement says.

The proposed agreement hinges on the county receiving at least $150,000 annually from natural-gas funding. If the $10,000 county payment is not made, King’s and Wilkes would have the right to withhold their payments.

The county has received $228,623 to $307,629 annually from natural gas drilling since the state authorized such earmarks under Act 13 in 2012. Approximately $65,457 is left for allocations this year, and the county received applications seeking a combined $314,781 for the River Common and other municipal and community projects.

Pedri told the group his administration will push for county council adoption, describing the agreement as an example of the private and public sectors working together for common good.

“We take for granted what we have here,” Pedri said. “We have a beautiful river. We have this beautiful green space.”

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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Mums not exclusive to fall

Chrysanthemums, often referred to as “mums,” are among the most popular flowers for autumn plantings and landscape decor. But these hardy, often vividly colored plants are worthy of attention as early as the spring gardening season.

Although mums are most often purchased in September and October and cast aside shortly thereafter, the plant that many people mistake for an annual is actually a perennial – meaning with the proper care it can come back year after year. By planting mums in the spring, gardeners ensure the plants have enough time to develop solid root systems, including their hallmark underground runners that enable them to grow tall and wide and over-winter.

While it’s best to plant potted mums that were used in fall decorating after the flowers die and before winter sets in, some container plants can still thrive and come back the following year. When cleaning gardens in the spring, do not trash withered mums that may have been stashed behind the shed. Try planting them and you may be surprised that they thrive and rebloom in the garden this year. Remove the dead branches and dried-up parts of the plant only after new shoots begin to grow.

Gardening experts advise planting mums in sunny spots with southern exposure. However, be sure to keep the plants away from artificial lighting, such as streetlamps or garden accent lighting, as mums are short-day plants that bloom only when the hours of darkness are greater than the hours of daylight. Mums that get too much light at night may not bloom to their fullest capacity, or they may be “leggy,” with longer stems instead of being compact. Pruning or “pinching” mums in June and July will help keep mums compact as well, resulting in more flowers.

Mums desire a rich and moist but well-drained soil. Planted mums will require less water than container plants, but the ground should never become soggy. Well-watered plants will offer more flowers.

Hardy mums work well as edging, in mass groupings to create a shrub-like appearance and even in containers. Thanks to their relative affordability, mums are an inexpensive way to dress up landscapes. Mums are hardy in USDA zones five through nine.

Although fall-flowering mums may not be the first plants to come to gardeners’ minds at the onset of spring, planning chrysanthemum landscaping now can help ensure beautiful plants when spring and summer flowers begin to wither. GT164972

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Volunteers needed for garden project at Fontana nature center

In celebration of National Public Lands Day, the city of Fontana and the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District are seeking volunteers for a garden project on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Volunteers will help rehabilitate native plant gardens, receive tips for landscaping and learn about water-wise gardening. The project will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Mary Vagle Nature Center, 1501 Cypress Ave.

Participants must pre-register at or by calling 909-349-6994 by Friday, Sept. 29.

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Local Garden Column: Tips on drying herbs from the garden

How should one go about drying herbs that are harvested from their garden?

The best time to harvest your herbs is when it is a sunny day, mid-morning after the dew has dried, but before the essential oils in the plant have dissipated.

Once the herbs are picked, rinse them with water and pat dry. Long stemmed herbs can be tied in small, loosed bundles. These bundles can be hung upside down in a well-ventilated location such as an enclosed porch or spare room where they will not be exposed to direct sunlight. To protect the herbs from collecting dust, take a large paper bag and place around the herbs and close the bag around the stems with string to hold the bag in place.

Herbs that have short stems can be dried on a rack. Make sure they are spread out and turn them each day so they do not mold. It will take about two weeks for herbs to dry completely.

For information, check out Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County’s Home and Garden Fact Sheets at Look up Harvesting and Preserving Herbs fact sheet.

Holly Wise is a resource extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Look for more gardening tips in the Observer-Dispatch or online at

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