On July 29th, SCA’s community crews in New York City and New Jersey came together 100 members strong to celebrate the midpoint of their summer crews with a project at New York City’s most famous green space: Central Park.
Four weeks ago, SCA’s NYC community crews hit the field in public lands around New York Harbor. Since then, they have been hard at work in partnership with the National Park Service, building trails in Jamaica Bay, clearing storm debris on Staten Island, planting native wetland species in the Bronx, laying down new paths on Governors Island, and much more. Crew members have also learned about urban agriculture, gone fishing in the Hudson River, and gained plenty of knowledge about the urban environment they call home.
The community crews spend most of their time working at independent sites, but this week crews based in Manhattan, Jamaica Bay, Staten Island, Essex County, and Liberty State Park in New Jersey came together in Central Park to work side-by-side for the day and celebrate the summer’s successes so far.
Joshua Laird and Larry Calhoun of the National Park Service welcomed members to the gathering, joining a gigantic circle-up with local SCA supporters, SCA AmeriCorps members and alumni, and SCA staff from across the northeast.
The crews then dispersed to work sites around Central Park, clearing litter at locations as far south as the Chess & Checkers House at 64th Street, and as far north as Harlem Meer at 110th. Several groups headed into the Ramble, the 38-acre woodland that comprises one of the “wildest” areas of the park, to remove invasive Japanese knotweed with the Central Park Conservancy’s Woodlands Youth Crew.
Bonnie Ralston, Environmental Education Coordinator for the Conservancy, led the effort. A 2011 alum of SCA’s Hudson Valley Corps, Bonnie launched her conservation career through SCA. “I love these collaborations,” she said. “I’m always happy to help out new SCA members coming up the ranks.”
Bonnie wasn’t the only SCA alum in the field. Safi Sabir, an alum who now works on the education staff at the American Museum of Natural History, headed out of the museum to find a group of familiar “blue shirts” at work next door in the park. Safi joined up with current members of SCA’s Hudson Valley Corps to chat with high school crew members and share advice on pursuing careers in conservation.
By the end of the day, SCA members had cleared over 2400 lbs of Japanese knotweed from the Ramble, and gained a new perspective on New York City’s most famous green space. “I’ve come here lots of times before,” said crew member Imran Khan, who lives in Queens. “So the park isn’t new to me. But I was never way back in the woods like this! It doesn’t even feel like Manhattan.”
Special thanks to Joshua Laird and Larry Calhoun of NPS and to all the SCA supporters who joined in the project. And a big thank you to the Central Park Conservancy
for hosting SCA 100 members strong in Central Park! Stay tuned on our NYC Facebook
pages as our NYC and NJ community crews set out to accomplish even more in the second half of their summer of service.