November 17, 2009
Man cleans up Courthouse Park war memorials
Former Cortland resident calls bird droppings on the monuments ‘disgraceful’
Former Cortland resident John Benedick couldn’t believe what he saw on the veterans’ monuments outside the Cortland County Courthouse on Monday morning.
Many of the monuments’ plaques, set in stone and inscribed with the names of county residents who gave their lives in various wars and conflicts, were covered with bird feces.
Benedick took the initiative, borrowed a hose, bucket and scrub brush from the Gable Inn, bought some detergent and began to scrub. Within half-an-hour he had made visible progress in removing the chalky white matter that had marred several monuments.
“It’s disgraceful,” Benedick said, pointing out that Veterans Day was just last week. “I’m doing this because it needs to be done.”
Benedick is a 1968 graduate of Cortland High School; he is now a retired schoolteacher and lives in Phoenix. His son, Grayson Walker, is on his second tour in Iraq with the Army. Benedick’s father also served in the Army during World War II.
“But I’m not doing this for them,” he said. “They’re still alive. See that sign over there — ‘Lest we forget’ — that’s why I’m doing this.”
Flocks of crows have been roosting in Courthouse Park and nearby in recent weeks.
Benedick said he understands that finances are tight at the county. He was also reluctant, at first, to talk when approached by a reporter and a photographer. He said he wants only to show respect for Cortland County’s war dead and veterans, and does not want to embarrass anybody or get anyone in trouble.
“I’m not about drawing attention to myself,” he said. “I don’t want some low-level guy to get reamed out for this.”
Brian Parker, director of the county’s building and grounds department, said the problem can likely be blamed on crows.
“Perpetual care of the memorials is the responsibility of the county,” Parker said by telephone from Florida. “I’m assuming it’s part of the crow problem. Crows roost in trees that belong to the city.”
The crow deterrent system on the roof of the adjacent county office building was inoperative last week, Parker said, and he could not say for certain whether the black birds were currently roosting in the area. He did not know the last time the monuments had been cleaned.
Parker said the line dividing city and county property runs down the middle of the sidewalk between Church and Greenbush streets. Thus the fountain is on city land while the memorials themselves are on county land.
“If someone had notified us we would have addressed it,” he said. “But I was out of town and didn’t know about it.”
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe