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Hilton, N.Y.� It�s a forgotten Hilton park. Some people don�t even remember what it�s actually called.
To many Hilton residents it�s known as �The Trussle� but officially it�s called Salmon Creek Park.
According to residents, for so many years, the park has been neglected, vandalized and overrun by drug dealers and people starting fights. It�s a place people are scared to go.
�You always risk physical harm when you cross this area and the drugs are constant,� explained Riley Page, a Hilton High School student.
Riley says he and he his friends would try to cut through the park to get to their homes but found that it was dangerous.
�The place is vile in general,� he said. �I could never get to my friends� houses or pass through because every time I tried to, it was always a struggle. Someone was always trying to pick a fight, verbally abusing anyone who was passing through.�
A few months ago, Riley said enough was enough and decided Salmon Creek Park needed to change.
That�s when he went before his classmates at Hilton High School and asked if they would help him clean up the park. Riley, a member of the school�s Gay-Straight Alliance, already had support from his club and several other students wanted to help.
However, he found that he had the greatest support from the Cadet Cross�the school�s Christian club.
�The GSA and the Cadet Cross are supposed to be seen as enemies, but at the same time we love our community and we love our town,� said Kraig Johnson, the president of the Cadet Cross. �We don�t have any hate towards each other, so we want to work together to make this park beautiful.�
For the two groups, their differences don�t matter. It�s the love for their community that binds them together.
Kraig and Riley became partners and project co-managers. They approached the Hilton Village Board and their superintendent with the idea of cleaning up Salmon Creek Park. They met with leaders over several months to work out the plan and logistics.
Eventually they had the village and school district�s full support and thanks to donations from the library, chamber of commerce and Home Depot, the students began the clean up on Saturday, May 25.
More than a dozen students picked up trash, planted flowers and bushes. They painted the words �Peace� over a spot where vandals had burned down and torn apart a gazebo.
They also plan to paint over the layers of graffiti that disfigures the bridge over Salmon Creek.
�It�s really a surprising to know that high school kids would come down here and put such effort into this,� said Cody Kelly, the Village of Hilton Parks Manager. �For this many kids to be down here� it�s a real nice thing.�
Kraig and Riley hope that Salmon Creek Park eventually becomes a place where families and kids would want to hang out. The park has a barbeque grill and a canoe launch that makes it ideal for fishing.
�As long as people are here, using this area, the people who do the drugs will have no desire to be [at this park],� Riley said.
Early on there was some skepticism about the project because some people felt the vandals and drug dealers would just come back and destroy the park again.
The students expect that.
�We know they are going to come back here and they are going to try their best to uproot everything we are doing,� Riley said. �We�re going to keep coming back here day in and day out. If they put back their graffiti, we will take it off again. If they ruin all the flowers, we will plant new ones. Eventually they will get tired.�
For the students who took part in transforming this park�they say it�s their legacy.
�This is how we want to leave our mark,� Kraig explained. �When we go to college, this park will remain beautiful.�