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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Marine Park, Brooklyn, New York, USA

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Marine Park, Brooklyn, New York, USA
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qwertishan



Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Brooklyn
Posts: 1
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I have lived in New York City for my entire life. This is not a place known for nature; instead it is often described as a concrete jungle. However, it would be a mistake to overlook the beautiful and expansive parks that the city has to offer. Marine Park is one of these parks, and it is incredible. Marine Park is the city's largest salt marsh, and is an absolutely amazing place to spend time, watching the grasses blow in the wind, looking across Jamaica Bay. It is here that I volunteered for the Ranger Conservation Corps (RCC) this year, building trails, removing invasive species, building gardens and cleaning up trash.
I have always been passionate about spending time outdoors. I began interning for the RCC in early March 2020, originally finding the opportunity online. However, I was only able to attend one scheduled session before the planned internship was canceled due to the pandemic. During the summer, I could not stop thinking about how I could do something for the environment in my city. I have always loved to spend time in the parks of New York City, and thought it would be great if I could give back and volunteer in a park and be in nature. I emailed the head of the program to find another way to continue the program, hoping to find a way to spend time improving the outdoors. He said that I could continue to volunteer at Marine Park on an independent basis every Sunday and we designed a plan together to rebuild an area of the swamp land into a new walking trail for visitors. This initiative would require several phases and I recruited a group of friends to assist me in the project. I called a few of my friends that lived nearby and told them about the project. Every Sunday, we started biking down to Marine Park early in the morning to work there.
In the park there is an area in between two paths, covered in an invasive species called mugwort. Our project was to build a trail through this field and rid the area of the mugwort. After that, we would plant native species to help the area thrive and grow. It was important to remove the mugwort because it was taking over the entire area, prohibiting other species from growing. Native animals also could not thrive because the plants they were eating could not survive. We wanted to build a trail so that people could walk through nature and be able to admire the native species. We started by clearing the land to make way for the path. We then proceeded to cart multiple wheelbarrows of mulch to place on the path. We had to make the layer of mulch thick in order to prevent plants from growing underneath which would destroy our path. To line the path, my friends and I organized to bring in logs which had been cut by rangers over the years. This part was the most difficult because the logs were extremely heavy and needed to be big to properly mark the edge of the path. Without these, people would stray off the trail and trample plants and cause a lot of damage. After dozens of wheelbarrows of mulch and hours of backbreaking log lifting, the trail was finished. The trail looked great, winding around the enclosure, showing many different native species. Mugwort, however, was still choking all of the native species, covering the enclosure forcing itself into every nook and cranny. To take all of the mugwort out, we had to take sickles and slash through the tall stalks. We carried out multiple wheelbarrows of the plant for weeks, while adding small touches to our trail by planting native species such as bergamot. As the fall progressed, almost all of the mugwort was gone, and the area looked barren. Towards the end of our 2020 session, we finished off the garden and planted some native seeds from the area such as milkweed. It was important to plant them in the cold weather, as the seeds need the cold season to properly sprout in the spring.
That topped off the end of our larger project, but the ranger and I also organized a few additional side projects t. One other area we worked on was a wasteland area of the park. It always amazed me because it looked post-apocalyptic. Scraggly trees dotted a barren landscape, and the area was overtaken with piles of trash. One project we completed was collecting the trash from this area; the Marine Park rangers planned to plant 3000 trees in the area, finally giving life to a barren landscape. Another side project we assisted with at Marine Park was building a small garden in which to plant native species. We hauled 200 pound logs to make a square next to a shed. We then took wheelbarrows of rich compost soil and mulch and mixed them together inside the garden. This created an area with an abundance of nutrients so that the seeds we planted would be able to grow well. We also planted these during the winter time so that the seeds could have the cold period they needed to sprout. Another final side project we coordinated with the RCC at a different location in Prospect Park, where we went on Mondays. Here, we planted native plants and trees around a horse riding area. The trees when they grow would help block out noise from the street and allow for a more enjoyable experience for the riders. We also broke up branches that had fallen during a recent storm, and roasted marshmallows over the fire surrounded by trees. This was a great experience as it brought me closer to nature. The same tree branches I had broken up could be used to make something delicious for myself. These areas are so close to my house in the biggest city in the U.S. and they still have such vibrant and beautiful scenery. This realization of the escape near my house made me recognize how truly important our parks are. Marine Park also makes me feel connected with nature, watching the water splash on the shore and watching a garden sprout and grow. To me, it is amazing to think that all of this beauty was located right in the heart of New York City.
Marine Park is not only beautiful, it is also an extremely important ecosystem. Marshes are great purifiers and hold lots of species including mussels which also help to purify water. This ecosystem is incredibly vital to the city. For example, during Hurricane Sandy lots of areas of coastal Brooklyn were flooded and many buildings were heavily damaged. Marine Park on the other hand was fine, as the marsh acted as a sponge, soaking up the storm water and protecting the homes from heavy damage. Learning this made me recognize how important it is to protect ecosystems like this, not just for plants and animals or recreation but also for our safety. If we take care of these lands, they will take care of us, providing protection, clean water, recreation and relaxation. I am proud that our project was part of reinvigorating this amazing park and I am proud that it can be used by and for the community. In the time that we were working on this project, I saw people of all ages walking through the garden admiring the plants, taking pictures in front of it and sitting on the rocks eating lunch. It was great to see something my friends and I worked so hard on be put to use and be enjoyed by the community.
This experience was great and I cannot wait to go back next year. The projects I did showed me what we can do to protect nature, such as planting native plants and preserving marshes. If we do this, we will also draw so much benefit from it. It has inspired me to keep doing projects like this, recognizing the importance of parks in an urban space. Even working on a small area can help people relax in nature during the day and take a break from a busy life. I also recognize the importance of places like marshes and how important it is to protect them. In the future I want to continue protecting and restoring places like this, so that more people can enjoy and benefit from our parks.
Date: December 31, 2020 Views: 798 File size: 38.2kb, 4497.4kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 44
Volunteers: 5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 and 16
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