SCA Volunteers Dedicate 9/11 Service to Restoring the Staten Island Greenbelt

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In honor of 9/11, 25 SCA members, staff, and alumni came together on Saturday, September 7th, for a service event at High Rock Park on the Staten Island Greenbelt. While crossing the harbor on board the Staten Island Ferry, volunteers were treated to sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and the new One World Trade Center, rising a symbolic 1776 feet above downtown Manhattan. Once they reached the Staten Island Greenbelt, however, members encountered a different kind of Ground Zero: a landscape ravaged by Sandy.

Last year, Sandy took a massive toll on the 2,800 acres of the Staten Island Greenbelt. A ring of connected parklands in the heart of Staten Island, the Greenbelt features over 35 miles of trails winding through the largest forest preserve in New York City. In October, storm winds whipped through the forest, downing many trees, while flood waters swept out steps and boardwalks and reduced park trails to eroded gullies. Though the park staff has been working tirelessly, much restoration remains to be done.
 
On September 7th, local SCA volunteers arrived on the scene, including members fresh out of the summer's Sandy Recovery Program, as well as alumni of SCA's Corps and National Crews from other sites around the country. Some brought their friends. Some brought their parents. One Sandy crew member, Aurelia Casey, brought three of her cousins. "One of my cousins will be 15 in January," Aurelia said proudly. "She can't wait to sign up for a crew!"
 
Christina Perdos, an SCA alum and former crew leader who now works on the Greenbelt as a forest restoration technician, led the project with the help of three current members of SCA's Hudson Valley Corps. One team donned hard hats and pick mattocks to build a new set of check steps to prevent erosion on the Green Trail. Two other teams broke off to cut and clear invasive Aralia elata, which had grown rampant in the forest preserve while busy park staff focused on other priorities after Sandy.
 
By the end of the day, volunteers had built three new check steps and had cleared over 900 square feet of invasive Aralia. They had also learned new skills -- and were eager for more. "I never built check steps before -- I never even held a pick mattock!" said Aurelia Casey. Her fellow alum Paulette Jules echoed her sentiments. "You got another chance to do work like this, you just call me -- I'll be there!"
 
Along with learning to identify invasive species and build new trail infrastructure, event volunteers learned a little more about their city. "I had no idea this place existed," said alum Lilah Burke as she posed with other volunteers for a group shot atop Mt Moses, with a backdrop of rolling forest. "It doesn't even feel like you're in the city!" Many participants were excited to return for future events, and to meet other SCA volunteers. "We should have events like this all the time -- like a big ice cream social!" said crew leader Eric Magnus. "That way everybody can get to meet everybody!"
 
That's exactly what will be happening this year in New York City. This month's event was just the beginning of SCA's NYC Year of Service, during which service events will be held each month around the city to engage alumni, partners, and interested members of the public. Coming up next are service events on October 26th, November 9th, and December 7th -- where SCA hopes to engage even more local volunteers to get the job done in the field.

Carolyn Lucey

AEO Crew Leader
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Jamal Garcia

AEO Crew Member
Gateway National Recreation Area
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James Coyle

Leader Team Member
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Molly Lewen

Sandy Crew One Member
Sandy Hook
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Vicki Rubino

Leader Team Leader
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Victoria Pennacchio

SCA Crew Member
Gateway National Recreation Area
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