This was another exciting week in the field. Even though it rained for part of the week we still managed to get a significant amount of work done. We also got to go on two amazing trips.
On Monday and Tuesday we continued our work at Great Kills Park removing damaged fencing. This proved to be one of the more challenging projects as much of the fencing was buried deep under the sand. Digging into the sand was very frustrating – one wrong move and the sand would cave in and fill the hole right back up. Eventually we found better ways to dig and managed to get all the fencing out from under the dunes. We also removed a large number of old fence posts from a different area of the park. Many of the posts were so rusted that if pulled the wrong way they would break off at the bottom, leaving a portion of the post underground. Even though these projects were frustrating, the sense of relief after completion was fantastic. Seeing the determination and teamwork that came out of the projects was also pretty inspiring.
Fortunately, after those two trying days we were rewarded with a whale watching trip on the American Princess out of Jacob Riis Park. The trip took us out of the New York Harbor and down the Jersey Coast to Monmouth Beach. Going through the harbor to the ocean provided a unique perspective of New York City and the surrounding area. I had never seen the city from this view and it really helped me to understand how the storm affected our area. The fact that the boat spent a good amount of time off Monmouth Beach was also fun because that is the town where my grandmother lives. While we were in the area we saw a large pod of dolphins and a lone humpback whale extremely close to shore. I have spent many days relaxing at Monmouth Beach but up until this trip I had no idea of the diverse population of aquatic mammals just off the shore. The captain and crew of the American Princess were very friendly and knowledgable, and the naturalist on board provided a lot of insight into the lives of these sea creatures.
Thursday brought us back to Staten Island where the landscape architect responsible for designing our conservation projects gave us a tour of two of the parks to further explain what the Staten Island crews will be doing over the course of the summer. He took us around Miller Field and Great Kills Park to show us the future work sites, explain how our work was helping to conserve these areas, and teach us a little about the history of the parks and how they were affected by Sandy. By being able to look at satellite images of the worksites and the plans for our projects we were better able to understand the work we are doing and how it pertains to the recovery effort. Seeing these plans will also hopefully allow us to prepare for the rest of the summer in order to more effectively manage our crews.
On Friday we went back to Jacob Riis Landing to continue our work there. This part of the park has seen a huge improvement over the course of the season – so much so that one would hardly recognize it now compared to how it looked directly after the storm. Because of this, Jacob Riis Landing will serve as the model for the other sites that our crews will be serving during the rest of the summer. This work has also shown the Park Service what a single SCA crew is capable of, and has definitely turned some heads at NPS.
After work on Friday, seven members of our crew piled into two cars and made the five-hour trip down to Washington DC for Servapalooza, the SCA Founder's Day celebration and service event at the National Mall in partnership with Points of Light. On Saturday we woke up early and headed down to the Mall, where we were each assigned a crew of volunteers to lead in cleaning up a different area of the park. The volunteers from the Points of Light conference came from all different parts of the country and were composed of all ages. My crew, which worked at Constitutions Gardens, included two families from Seattle, and the 7- and 8-year-olds proved to be the hardest workers in the whole bunch. Even in the high heat there was no discouraging these kids from getting the work done (though I think the prospect of free ice cream at the end of the day may have had something to do with this). After a few hours of hard work the crews all met for a wonderful lunch. The savory meal was made all the more special for me, as my older brother, who lives in DC, was able to join us. Once lunch was over it was time for all of us to head home to rest and prepare for the next week of exciting service with the SCA.