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Volunteers flock to zoo to aid ice storm cleanup


Volunteers arrived Saturday morning with chain saws and four-wheelers to help remove fallen tree limbs scattered around the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park as a result of last weekend’s ice storm.

John T. Wright, zoo executive director, said about 10 volunteers came out for the effort. None of the zoo’s exhibits or animal enclosures was damaged and none of the animals had to be removed from their regular enclosures. Holiday lights set up in the park for Winter Wonderland Weekends sustained minimal damage.

Volunteers were asked to dress in warm clothing and bring chain saws and vehicles capable of removing large branches.

“It’s all in what they are willing to give us,” Mr. Wright said. “It always feels good to have people in the community lend a hand to those in need.”

The volunteers cut all the damaged trees down, and cut up the limbs to be removed easily from the grounds. They also chopped down any hanging branches to ensure a safe pathway for zoo guests.

Mr. Wright said the volunteers brought special skill sets to help remove the debris from public areas such as the walkways.

“Some are staff members from Fort Drum, a person from the Department of Transportation, some people who actually have experience with tree and limb removal work for their regular jobs,” Mr. Wright said. “These guys do some land clearing and they do have a skill set for taking down trees and being able to determine what area to best chop it for the health of the tree, so we’re not just coming by and hacking away.”

The zoo put a notice seeking volunteers on its website and sent a release to local news organizations. Copenhagen resident Patrick J. St. Louis said he decided to come out after he heard the call over the radio at the fire department where he volunteers.

“Up on the hill we didn’t get anything and down here they got slammed,” Mr. St. Louis said. “I knew I didn’t have anything else to do today, so I brought my four-wheeler and my trailer and came down.”

Ronnie L. “Bubba” Myers, who lives down the street from the zoo, came with his wife, Kara L., son Austin C. and neighbor Shawn C. Gallagher. He said because the zoo and the park are places he and his family enjoy, he wanted to help.

“We always come up here to the zoo, wander around in the woods, play in the park, so my wife saw this on the Internet and we volunteered to come up here,” Mr. Myers said.

Mr. Myers and Mr. Gallagher both brought their chain saws with them. Mr. Myers said it was important to come up and give back to the facility that is a big part of the community.

“We like the zoo, and it’s nice to give back to your community when you can, and I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of people to come up and do free labor so we decided we’d come,” Mr. Myers said.

The zoo is open for visitors through the weekend, Mr. Wright said. The final Winter Wonderland Weekend runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today. For the zoo’s full schedule or more information about visiting, go to or call 782-6180.

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