Reclaiming a Coastal Forest

ConSERVE NYC Volunteers Clear Invasives at New York's "South Pole"

ConSERVE NYC events have taken our volunteers as far north as Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, as far west as Hudson River Park in Manhattan, and as far east as Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing. On August 16th, our volunteers traveled to the southern-most point of New York to serve at Conference House Park on Staten Island.

Over 40 SCA volunteers teamed up with the NYC Parks Natural Areas Volunteers to reclaim young trees from invasives at a recent Million Trees planting site near the waterfront. Planted shortly before Hurricane Sandy, the trees sustained a barrage of saltwater when the low-lying area was flooded, then struggled to get enough sunlight as mugwort and other invasives took over the disturbed site. Many of the young trees were completely buried in overgrown vegetation, hardly visible from the park’s trails.

But SCA volunteers were up for the challenge. One group shouldered through six-foot-tall mugwort to begin clearing open areas around the saplings, while another group waded into waist-high masses of mile-a-minute vine to start untangling the aggressive vine from the native vegetation. By lunchtime, volunteers had bagged and removed over 1000 pounds of invasives to give the new trees room to grow and thrive.

For some of the participants, the site was a familiar one. Earlier this summer, members of SCA’s YCC crew traveled to Conference House Park for an Environmental Education Day to learn about the conservation challenges the park was facing, and begin removing invasives at the site. At this weekend’s event, YCC members Zack Towle and Amosh Neupane stepped up as Apprentice Leaders to help guide volunteers in continuing the task their crew had started.

Other participants included leaders from SCA’s Sandy Recovery Program and Hudson Valley Corps, as well as students from the Bryant High School Coalition of Students for Environment & Climate Action, Brooklyn Tech Key Club, Bard High School, Park East High School, IS 51, City College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College.

“I’m so excited to have another ConSERVE project on Staten Island,” said SCA Hudson Valley member Tara Linton, who lives near Conference House Park. “Most of my friends from other boroughs don’t want to come all the way out here…. but it’s such a great site!”

SCA alum Chris Fahim agreed. “I just finished an SCA internship in Kansas. But I’m from New York, so when I got back I was happy to find out that there were ways for me to stay involved with SCA here.”

After a morning of service, volunteers gathered on the beach for a group photo at New York’s “South Pole” — the southernmost point in the city, and in the state. Then they headed over for a free tour of the historic Conference House for which the park is named — a Dutch manor built in the 17th-century, where Benjamin Franklin and John Adams parlayed with the British in 1776.

“I met awesome new people today and learned cool stuff,” said Sam March, a student at Park East High School who just finished his summer term on SCA’s Sandy Recovery crews. “I didn’t think it would happen, but I’m going to miss not going to work with SCA on Monday!”

SCA’s ConSERVE NYC initiative has passed the milestone of 1000 volunteers engaged across all five boroughs of New York City. On September 13th, participants will gather on Governors Island to celebrate one year of successful ConSERVE events. Sign up to join in at conserveNYCseptember.eventbrite.com.

See more photos from the August event at Conference House Park.