In this short video, Troy Lancaster tells the story of how he and his nonprofit group transformed a vacant lot into a place birds visit each year.
Where his neighbors saw an empty plot of land beside burnt-out buildings, Troy Lancaster and his friend Jim Beer had a vision: they envisioned a bird sanctuary. That was 1996.
Today, the nonprofit Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary (DSBS) that grew out of their efforts serves as not only a way-station for migrating birds of all varieties, but also a hands-on conservation education program, teaching local youth about the importance of caring for natural places within an urban landscape.
DSBS offers a perfect example of what happens when people literally “make” parks. In this case, picking up old tires and refrigerators to provide room for native plants and trees suited to the Northeast that are the feeding source for migrating birds.
After caring and developing the space for many years on their own, DSBS began advocating local and state officials for funding to further develop the space and provide covered areas that would allow them to offer arts and environmental education programs for youth year-round. The park underwent its first phase of construction in Spring 2010. With the help of People Make Parks, informational signage was posted to keep residents informed about the progress of the project, and the intent of the park.
Finally, following years of determination, the group’s advocacy bore fruit, and groundbreaking for a larger, more elaborate DSBS began in Spring 2011. The sanctuary opened in Summer 2013, and is attracting both residents and birds to its beautiful grounds!
It seems appropriate then that the park is named for Dred Scott, an African-American slave who, in 1857, took his fight for freedom for himself and his family all the way to the Supreme Court. The bird sanctuary named for him is a reminder that, as DSBS’s Web site reads, “we can change our circumstances and make a difference. His strength of mind succeeded against all probability and is the driving force that fuels Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary.”
It was DSBS’s similar dedication that transformed this once-forgotten piece of land, a half-mile from Yankee Stadium, into a place where school children will soon gather once again to learn about the wealth of their local environment and the importance of park stewardship, all by simply looking up at the bird-filled trees that surround them.