Wendy Reitmeier got tired of walking past the litter-strewn berms on the way to the subway every morning. So a few years ago, she decided to do something about it.
Four years ago she set up “Friends of the Berms” a monthly group that cleans and cares for the berms—those wooded hills that line Grand Army Plaza.
“It was just kind of sad. There was always trash in the grass, plastic bags in the trees, dead branches that would just sit there forever. I just said why couldn’t we just get a few neighbors to go in there and clean it up?” said Reitmeier, who lives on St. Johns Place between Plaza and Underhill.
In the spring of 2008, Reitmeier, a 59-year-old who works for the city helping to finance low-income housing, got permission and the use of some tools from the Prospect Park Alliance, and put up some signs in the neighborhood. The first morning, about 15 people showed up.
“Everybody said, let’s do it again and we just started doing it once a month,” said Reitmeier.
Since then the group has come out one Saturday morning a month Spring through Fall to clean up litter and garden in the berms. Reitmeier keeps the group posted on the date via e-mail. Over the years about 85 people have participated, she said.
Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson called Reitmeier "a dedicated Park Volunteer who has done an exceptional job leading the Friends of the Berm."
"We are grateful for her efforts in helping to make Grand Army Plaza beautiful,” he said.
Reitmeier’s group has found everything from carpets to fancy hats caught in the berms, she said.
Since the group has started cleaning up the area, the Parks Department has taken note and assigned a part-time gardener to the area.
“I don’t have a huge amount of time to do volunteer work, but this is something that doesn’t take a whole lot of time and it’s fun,” she said.
“One of the fun things about doing this is not only getting to know about neighbors but finding that people are willing to help," she added.
Upcoming Berm maintenance events are on the following dates. Meet at the corner of Plaza Street and Vanderbilt Ave. (near Grand Army Plaza) and work from 10:00 am to Noon. Gloves and tools are provided. Closed-toe shoes and long pants are suggested.
Saturday, April 7
Saturday, May 5
Saturday, June 2
Saturday, July 7
Know a Prospect Heights volunteer who deserves recognition? E-mail Amy.Clark@patch.com.