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ESF College Foundation Donates Land to Expand Heath Park

taking the tarp off a wooden parks sign
John Smith

It’s been a long time coming, but Heath Park in Syracuse now has another entrance.  SUNY Environmental College of Science and Forestry has officially given two acres of land that borders a residential neighborhood to the city parks department.  

Frederick Celke gave ESF the additional land in 1996, which now completes the full trail and forest land into Heath Park. ESF President Quentin Wheeler says the college opted not to sell the land for other development because it would have cut off access to an entire side of the park. The land was once used for research, but Wheeler says it'll go to a much more community-focused cause now...

The existing section of the park was originally established as city property in 1962, but Mayor Stephanie Miner took time to give credit where it was due.

Miner said, “We in the city have a historic recognition of how important parks and green spaces are. One of the entities that has been… thinking about this long before talking about sustainability and the future of our planet long before it came into vogue was ESF.”  

three people pose smiling for a photo together, all three neighbors over fifty
Credit John Smith / WAER News
Bryce and Judy Hand and Norma Wilenski (from left to right) attended the dedication of the new park land

In a release distributed by the city, The ESF College Foundation said, "At ESF we believe that parks and open spaces enhance appreciation of nature. It is our hope that current and future generation of City residents will enjoy this addition to heath Park."
She thanked Wheeler and others who took time to address any red tape in the way of providing important green space to Syracuse residents.
A few of those residents expressed happiness that it was the James E. Heath Park benefiting from the land donation. Judy Hand and her husband Bryce live just a few houses away from the park, and they remember James Heath very fondly since his death in 1969...

Valley residents Judy and Bryce Hand share their memories of the park's namesake James Heath, who was their neighbor

Finding the new entrance to Heath Park might be just as much reason to bring along your compass or GPS device before heading into the forest. It’s located off Lynn Circle in Syracuse’s Valley section. You can find more information about the city's public parks at

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Hannah vividly remembers pulling up in the driveway with her mom as a child and sitting in the car as it idled with the radio on, listening to Ira Glass finish his thought on This American Life. When he reached a transition, it was a wild race out of the car and into the house to flip on the story again and keep listening. Hannah’s love of radio reporting has stuck with her ever since.