Youth@Work 2021 Week 4

Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) Youth@Work is proud to present the accomplishments of our youth for 2021! The following will highlight the tasks and activities for Week 4. This was the last week of the program for 2021, but please stay tuned for FERP Youth@Work 2022!

On Monday, the team started by spreading two mulch piles near the entrance of the park at the intersection of Cold Spring and Orange Street. After a few hours of hard work, the area was looking so much better!

After mulching, the team got started on painting their own trash cans! The youth learned that to make the paint stick, we needed to apply a primer and an enamel base. Our primer was white, while our enamel base was a pale yellow. We needed to paint these layers today to allow them to dry so we could paint our designs on Tuesday!

We also watered the Greenspace to ensure that the wonderful plants we planted will survive! Finally, we ended our day with our cleanup of trash around College Woods. We filled up about five buckets of litter!

We started Tuesday by watering the Greenspace, then headed over to our trash cans to decorate them! Each student received their own trash can and got to decorate it head-to-toe! These trash cans are now displayed all across College Woods. Maybe now people will be less inclined to litter?

Noor, Keturah, Adner, and Deja pose with their final products!

Wednesday morning, the group worked on cleaning up the single staircase on the White Trail that leads up to English Drive. This staircase was covered with dirt and leaves. Many of the plants were overgrown to the point where the staircase almost was not visible! After working for a few hours, this staircase is much more safe and inviting.

Next, we placed FERP Youth@Work signs all over the park in the areas where we worked. Next time that you visit East Rock Park, see if you can find them!

The group then cleaned up trash one last time on the one-way road that leads from Livingston Street to Whitney Avenue. We still filled up three buckets of litter. We are hoping that people will continue to take care of this area after Youth@Work ends!

Keturah and Deja cleaning up the one-way street.

Finally, we headed over to the East Rock Park Overlook and got started with cleaning off the stairs by raking leaves, removing weeds, and shoveling dirt off them.

On Thursday, we returned to the East Rock Park Overlook to continue cleaning! We started up at the top of the overlook to remove weeds, rake piles of leaves, rake the gravel, remove dead plants, cut back overgrown plants, and finish the stairs. Now you can actually see the cliffside from the overlook, and it is a much more inviting place to sit!

We also found a turtle in College Woods during our cleaning session. The turtle was getting too close to the road, so we brought it down toward Mill River. The turtle ran to the water to get a good swim!

Next, the team spread our last mulch pile. We used some of the mulch pile to fill out the empty-looking areas in the garden outside the Ranger Station. Funny enough, we ended mulching in the same area that we started!

To end the day on a fun note, the team kayaked on Mill River! For most of us, this was our first time kayaking. We found so many lily flowers and lily pads!

On Friday, the youth worked together to prepare their posters to present their accomplishments to their friends and family. Because the youth had done so much this past month, they had so much to present!

The youth presented their accomplishments to their loved ones, toured their families to see the worksites they cleaned up, and celebrated with pizzas supplied by David Shimchick!

Program Supervisor Morgan Korzik, Deja, Ander, Noor, and Keturah pose with the posters!

Thank you so much to David Shimchick, FERP, Chris and Regina from URI, Dr. Chris O’Brien and Sophia Gambale, Tim, Kathleen, Sabrina, Savannah, MakeHaven, Kingfisher Adventures Kayak Rentals, and of course the youth’s families for helping shape their experience and encouraging them to push forward with their hard work! The youth did a wonderful job, and as their Program Supervisor (Morgan Korzik), I am so happy to see how they grew as individuals and as a team over the past month.

Although FERP Youth@Work 2021 has come to an end, please stay tuned for Youth@Work 2022!

If you would like to volunteer with Friends of East Rock Park, or simply learn more about the organization, please follow the link here:

Youth@Work 2021 Week 3

Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) Youth@Work is proud to present the accomplishments of our youth for 2021! The following will highlight the tasks and activities for Week 3. Please stay tuned for information on future weeks as we continue our park stewardship!

It is hard to believe that we already finished Week 3 of the program!

On Monday, we started by watering all of the wonderful plants, including trees and flowers, that we have been working with FERP to plant in the greenspace. The trees were definitely thirsty!

Then, the team walked over to Cold Spring Street. Three mulch piles were delivered on the edge of the park to cover some of the dead areas. This mulch will not only make the park look better, but it can provide good insulation to grow healthy plants! It took a great deal of hard work, but the team spread two of these large much piles.

Mulching had taken quite a bit of time, so the team ended with our weekly trash pickup in College Woods. We also traveled along the White Trail that connects Orange Street to Rice Field. There was so much trash along the trail that we could not collect it all, but the youth collected as much as possible. By the end, we had filled up approximately 15 buckets of trash!

On Tuesday, the team met bright and early to water the greenspace again. This time, we lightly watered the plants to avoid overwatering.

Adner and Noor watering the greenspace.

The youth then met FERP leader David Shimchick over at Whitney Garden. Although the area appeared to have been somewhat cared for, the team cleared out weeds, removed excess dirt and moss, removed dead leaves, and swept the area. It already looks so much better!

The team followed our Whitney Garden adventure with a walk along the White Trail. The shade was much appreciated! We even stopped by the Eli Whitney Museum to see Whitney Falls. Due to the breeze, we actually could feel the spray from the water. We also saw a mama duck and two of her babies!

Once we got back to College Woods, the youth took a break and completed a Reflection Activity. During this activity, the youth each found a bench somewhere in College Woods. They put their phones aside and sat for 15 minutes. The youth wrote focused on their senses and wrote down things that they saw, smelled, heard, felt physically (like with their hands and feet), and felt emotionally. We came back together and shared some of the things that we wrote down. The youth thought this was a good activity to ground themselves and work on their observation skills!

To wrap up the day, the youth worked as a team on a Resume Building Activity. This activity took multiple days, but on this day, the team worked together to write down four lists: (1) what tools they had worked with at Youth@Work, (2) what activities they did in the program, (3) which areas they completed park stewardship activities in the park, and (4) what they gained from the program.

Some items from those lists are below:

Tools we worked with: buckets, rakes, shovels, brooms, hose, hand saw, loppers, hedge clippers, trash grabbers, hand shovels, wheelbarrow, mulching forks, steel rakes, etc.

Park “activities” we did: mulching, trash pickup, planting, devining, cleaning the playground, hiking, watering plants, removing invasive plants, identifying plants, etc.

Keturah and Adner working on group’s lists.

Where we worked: Ranger Station, playground, Cold Spring, Colonial Spring, Orange Street, Whitney Garden, etc.

What we gained: teamwork, confidence, social skills, mulching skills, leadership, friendship, sense of accomplishment, time management, overcame fears, attention to detail, etc.

Keturah, Adner, Noor, and Deja working on the group’s lists.

The youth will be utilizing this information later to formulate their own resumes, highlighting their accomplishments from Youth@Work!

Wednesday morning, the group started with a few minutes of trash pickup in College Woods, focusing on the areas around the Ranger Station, playgrounds, and basketball court. Even though we had just cleaned this area on Monday, it was already filled with so much trash! We filled up five whole buckets of trash just from these few areas.

The youth spent the rest of their day on a field trip to the University of New Haven, where Program Supervisor Morgan Korzik is a graduate student. The youth started with a general tour of the university. For many of the students, this was their first time on any college campus. They were able to see different classroom styles, dorms, dining halls, and event spaces. This was great exposure for any youth that do decide to attend college later!

Then, the youth met with Sophia Gambale at the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory led by Dr. Chris O’Brien at the University of New Haven to learn more about how their passions for the environment can be applied to future research and careers. The Wildlife Forensics Laboratory houses multiple animals and insects that are big components of research relating to forensic and environmental science.

For example, Sophia explained how one of the projects revolves around how some chemical components in birth control are not easily filtered out of the water and enter our ecosystems, potentially influencing the aggression level of crayfish.

We also learned that Fundulus fish are scavengers that will eat almost anything! The lab is trying to learn if these fish prefer their normal diet or decomposing remains. This could have a great impact on death investigations for remains that are discarded into the water because it may be difficult to interpret evidence that has been eaten away by Fundulus.

Next, Sophia showed everyone the lab’s collection of roaches! This included Cave Cockroaches, Death’s Head Cockroaches, and Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. The kids even got to pet them, in addition to a millipede!

Next, the youth met the stars of the lab – Ratner, Drake, and Pineapple! These three rats are being trained to detect human remains. Search dogs are currently used for this purpose, but rats could be beneficial to get into tight spaces that are difficult for humans or dogs to reach. For example, these rats may be able to find remains in the rubble of collapsed buildings. These rats are being trained to wear harnesses and will one day be able to be tracked with GPS!

Sophia also showed us the crayfish that are being used in a water temperature experiment. The lab wants to see how abnormally high and low water temperatures can influence crayfish behavior. Climate change has caused fluctuations in water temperatures, so this research can help scientists know what to expect from future crayfish behavior. The youth learned that bottom feeders, like crayfish, play a critical role in the ecosystem because any changes in their population will influence everything that comes after them in the food chain!

After learning how caring for the environment can lead to a fun, hands-on, and animal-fueled career, the youth met with four graduate students at the University of New Haven for a Q&A session about transitioning from high school to college, job applications and interviews, stepping out of their comfort zones, and following their passions.

We did not want to pressure the youth to go to college, but we did want to give them an opportunity to ask questions to people who recently went through the process. Us graduate students wish we would have had that opportunity while in high school! Tim, Savannah, Kathleen, and Sabrina gave the students tips on trying new things, finding their passions, and starting early on professional development.

On Thursday, the team started by picking up trash again in College Woods around the Ranger Station and playgrounds, then picking up trash on the one-way street leading to Whitney Avenue. Didn’t we just do this? Unfortunately, we have to keep picking up trash because it keeps piling up! Hopefully people will one day take better care of East Rock Park and not litter in the first place.

Next, our group worked hard to spread the last of the three mulch piles that were delivered on Cold Spring Street. Now the area looks cared for and is ready for new plants!

The youth teamed up with FERP and Urban Resources Initiative (URI) Intern Chris to continue planting in the greenspace! This day, we helped FERP plant Christmas Tree Ferns, Solomon’s Seal, Wintergreen, Columbine, Sweet Fern, and Milkweed. One of the best things about Milkweed is that it is great food for caterpillars, which will definitely grow into beautiful butterflies in the native species garden!

The youth ended the day by taking a tour of MakeHaven, a non-profit makerspace in downtown New Haven. We learned that the space has many tools and equipment to encourage creativity, including necessities for welding, woodworking, metalworking, sewing, baking, candle making, resin making, 3D printing, and so much more! This was the youth’s introduction to the vast possibilities for crafting and creativity. Thank you for touring us around, Kate Cebik!

When the youth arrived bright and early on Friday morning, the weather was actually somewhat cool for once, so we got started with mulching! We worked on two piles at the end of Orange Street. These piles were spread over areas where the youth had previously removed invasive plants and debris!

Adner, Noor, Deja, and Keturah pose after a great mulching job!
Silly photo time!

Next, the team removed a patch of invasive Knotweed at the end of Orange Street. Although there is plenty more Knotweed in the park, we certainly made a big dent today! Removing this Knotweed is important to allow our native plant species to flourish.

The youth took a long and well deserved break after all their hard work! Then, we continued with our Resume Activity. Adner, Noor, Deja, and Keturah worked together to articulate their Youth@Work accomplishments in the form of a resume. Each student even drafted their own resume in their notebooks, and Program Supervisor Morgan Korzik even typed them up. Now each student will leave the program with a resume!

Finally, the youth worked together to water all the great plants in the greenspace. The plants all needed some hydration before the weekend!

Thank you for reading! Join us next week for our last post for Summer 2021, as this year, the Youth@Work program is only four weeks long.

Youth@Work 2021 Week 2

Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) Youth@Work is proud to present the accomplishments of our youth for 2021! The following will highlight the tasks and activities for Week 2. Please stay tuned for information on future weeks as we continue our park stewardship!

Our second week came and went so quickly!

To start off our week on Monday, the team started with our weekly trash cleanup in College Woods. Thankfully, there was not too much trash this week, but we still filled up five garbage bags!

Adner, Noor, Keturah, and Deja searching for trash in College Woods.

Then, the youth moved on to clean the outside of the Environmental Center. The youth raked and removed weeds from the gardens, removed weeds from around the stone wall, and swept the excess dirt and mulch back into the right places. Look how inviting the entrance to the Environmental Center is now!

David Shimchick from FERP joined the youth to teach them how to identify and remove three invasive species: Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose, and Knot Weed. Bittersweet and Multiflora Rose are both vining plants that can twist around native plants and strangle them to death. Knot Weed can grow tall and outcompete native plants. Invasive species often have to be removed by an outside force, like our youth, because they can lack natural predators, allowing those invasive species to grow uncontrolled. By removing these invasive species, we enable native Connecticut plants to flourish!

Finally, the group finished by spreading two mulch piles near the new greenspace on the Orange Street side of the Environmental Center. This was an important step to tying the new greenspace together!

On Tuesday, the youth returned to work bright and early to continue clearing out invasive species. The youth cleared Knot Weed from two spots at the end of Orange Street. Then, these areas were raked and cleaned out of any dead plants and leaves. This took about two hours, but these areas look so much better now!

We ended our day by taking a long walk from the East Rock Park Ranger Station all the way up to the summit and back down. We weren’t sure we could make it all the way, but the youth persevered and rewarded themselves with a nice break at the top, looking out over the city. The fog actually made the view pretty cool! The youth were proud that they pushed themselves to push through our hike.

Deja, Noor, Adner, and Keturah pose for a photo!
View on our walk.
Incredible view from the Summit!

On Wednesday, the youth tackled a big task. We cleaned the two staircases that surround Colonial Spring. When we arrived, the staircases were so full of leaves and overgrown invasive Multiflora Rose that it was difficult to walk through. The youth removed invasive plants, raked the steps, cut back overgrown plants, shoveled out dead leaves, and blew excess dirt out from the staircases. By the end of our hard work, these staircases looked amazing and so inviting!

Keturah, Adner, Noor, and Deja pose after working hard!

Then, the youth went back to work with cleaning up the outside of the Environmental Center. This day, we filled in the empty areas of the gardens with new mulch. This helped the area look cleaner and will provide good insulation for the plants growing in the garden.

We ended our day by returning to East Rock Park Road, the one-way street that connects Livingston Street and Whitney Avenue. We cleared the trash off this street last week, but it was already filled with disgusting trash again. The youth worked hard to clear this street for a second time, filling up seven garbage bags of litter! We hope that fewer people will litter so we will not have to clean this street again next week.

On Thursday, the youth continued with our project to remove invasive plants. We focused on removing Multiflora Rose and Mugwort on the trail leading from Orange Street to Rice Field.

On the way, we stopped by Colonial Spring to remove vines from one of the trees. This tree was becoming suffocated by these massive, twisted vines and was starting to die. The youth cut the vines as high and as low as possible, allowing the existing vines to die and decay off the tree, while also trying to prevent the vines from regrowing. Hopefully a tree was saved today!

We returned to College Woods to help the FERP volunteer group plant flowers in the new greenspace. We were joined by Chris from URI, who helped guide us through the planting process. There were so many flowers to start, but with so many hands and great teamwork, the job went by quickly! We also worked with the FERP to alter the shape of the mulch that surrounds the greenspace to allow for easier grass mowing.

Our great big team, including URI, FERP, and FERP Youth@Work!
Noor, Deja, Keturah, and Adner enjoying a little break!

Because the heat was becoming unbearable, we had to say an early goodbye!

To finish up our week on Friday, the youth first met back at the greenspace that we have been working on. The youth created mulch “donuts” around all of our new plants. Although these “donuts” are not yummy, they are important because they help water soak into the soil around the plant’s roots rather than running down the hill. After creating our “donuts,” the youth watered every plant in the greenspace. It was a hot day, so the plants were thirsty!

Afterward, the youth traveled to Cold Spring to cleanup the area. Although there was very little trash, the area was overgrown with weeds, and many dead leaves were stuck down in the spring. After a few hours of work, the spring was looking so much better!

We found a cute little orange slug along the way!

The group took a long and well deserved break after cleaning Cold Spring. The students ended the day with a Plant Identification activity created by the Program Supervisor, Morgan Korzik. The youth were given photos of various plants in East Rock Park and were asked to locate the plants. Using an app called iNaturalist, the youth photographed the plants to learn their names and whether they are invasive or native to the park. This was a fun way for the team to work together and develop their attention to detail!

That wraps up Week 2 of FERP Youth@Work! Stay tuned for another update next Friday to continue hearing about the students’ work.

Youth@Work 2021 Week 1

Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) Youth@Work is proud to present the accomplishments of our youth for 2021! The following will highlight the tasks and activities for Week 1. Please stay tuned for information on future weeks as we continue our park stewardship!

FERP Summer Interns led by their supervisor, Morgan Korzik: Keturah, Noor, Adner, and Deja. Malachi could not join us on the day that we took this picture.

For 2021, the FERP Summer Interns are Keturah, Noor, Adner, Deja, and Malachi. These great youth are led by their supervisor, Morgan Korzik.

To start off our first day (Tuesday), the youth started tackling the playground. This playground is actually rather large, so it had to be split up over multiple days. The youth removed weeds and leaf debris from the inside and outside of the playground. Then, they returned clean sand back into the sandboxes.

Finally, we finished about a third of the playground!

After we cleaned the playground!

After taking a break, the youth worked hard to pick up trash in College Woods. There was a good bit of debris near the roadside after July 4th. By the end of an hour and a half, we had filled up about seven bags of trash!

Noor, Keturah, Malachi, and Ander picking up trash on Orange Street.

Finally, we started spreading mulch in a natural area near the intersection of Cold Spring and Orange Street. There were three large mulch piles to start, but the youth managed to spread two and a half of them! Due to the heat, we decided to finish the rest on another day.

We met bright and early on Wednesday to continue working on the playground. Again, we started taking out weeds, removing leaf debris, and putting clean sand back into the sandboxes.

Keturah and Noor cleaning up the playground.
Done with the playground for the day!

Next, the youth moved on to pick up trash from Livingston Street and East Rock Park Road (the one-way street that leads to Whitney Avenue). There was so much trash on this street that it took us ten trash bags and almost two hours to clean it all! While we cleaned, the youth expressed how disappointed they were with how little care some people have for our environment. However, many of the people in the cars that passed us stopped to tell the youth “thank you” for their hard work to make a difference.

The youth took an ice cream break after their hard work! Then, we decided to split into two teams to do a little scavenger hunt. The youth were tasked to find and photograph different things in the park like bees, the summit, the canoe access area, flowering plants, and more. This caused the youth to work in teams and look at the park through a new lens!

Adner and Keturah searching in the scavenger hunt.
Malachi and Noor pose for a photo during the scavenger hunt.

We ended our day by returning to those mulch piles, and although we did not finish our mulching adventure, we made so much progress!

Noor, Malachi, and Keturah spreading mulch.

For Week 1, we had to end our week on Thursday due to massive storms on Friday. We returned to the playground to continue our cleanup. There were so many weeds in this last portion of the playground, but everyone worked hard to remove them!

After taking a break, the youth met with the Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) volunteer group and Urban Resources Initiative (URI) to remove invasive mugwort and plant four new trees (three rhododendrons and one witch hazel) at the greenspace near Orange Street. It was a blast getting to meet new people, learning about our local ecosystems, and seeing how much of an impact we can all make on the environment when we work together!

Chris from URI teaching the youth and FERP volunteers about how to identify poison ivy and mugwort.
David Shimchick showing the youth and FERP volunteers the plan for developing this greenspace.
Keturah, Noor, Adner, and Deja pose for a photo after working hard to plant rhododendrons.
All done planting three new rhododendrons and one new witch hazel tree in the developing greenspace!

The youth ended the day by helping Regina Sung, URI’s ParkScore Intern for Summer 2021. Regina’s job is to survey the parks in the City of New Haven to determine the quality and quantity of their amenities, which can help the city equitably invest in parks on the neighborhood-level. The youth split into groups to count the number of benches, trash cans, light posts, signage, grills, and more in College Woods. We learned that College Woods has many more benches than other parks in the New Haven area.

The youth will be back bright and early on Monday morning to continue their park stewardship!

Youth@Work 2019 Week 1

Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) is proud to share the accomplishments of this year’s group of Youth@Work students.



These are the great stewards of 2019 under the supervision of Kenyanna Martin:  Wisam, Jordan, Jerrell, Cameron, and Kassandra.

2019 marks the eleventh year FERP has run this program.  The youth work 25 hours per week for 5 weeks and are paid minimum wage by Youth@Work, a public-private partnership of the City of New Haven and Workforce Alliance.  FERP is grateful to Gwendolyn Busch and her team at Y@W for their support and administration of this excellent program which placed hundreds youths in positions this summer.

FERP is also grateful to Roger Ibbotson for his generous contribution which has paid for the youths’ supervisor, which for the second year in a row is led by Kenyanna Martin. We could not run this program if it were not for his financial support.

FERP is also grateful to Ranger Dan Barvir for his support of the program and for working directly with us on several occasions. Thanks also go out to Mayor Harp, Parks Director Rebecca Bombero, Bill Carone and Martin Torresquintero for their ongoing dedication to the maintenance and improvement of New Haven’s vast park system which consists of over 2,275 acres of park land and all the facilities located in 142 parks!!

Week 1 Accomplishments:

  1. Picking up trash  in College Woods
  2. Cleaning and mulching the front entry to College Woods at Orange and Cold Spring.
  3. Pulled invasive mugwort and mulching the Cold Spring Steps Garden.
  4. Pulled more invasive mugwort and mulched  the small garden in front of the  playground.
  5. Picking up MORE trash on Betty’s way  Trail to Rice Field and the View Street Playground in Cedar Hill.



Week 2 Accomplishments:
Monday morning Trash pick-up as always !

cleaned playground, by raking leaves and putting sand back in sandbox

Clearing out invasive plants  along the side of the park on Orange street

Mulching and sweeping up dirt from the College Woods entrance





Youth@Work 2016 Week 4

Welcome back!

Flowers in bloom at the Pardee Rose Gardens, which the team visited on Thursday!

The second-to-last week of our program was all about getting work done! We want to be sure that we help out as much as we can during our 5 weeks, and leave East Rock Park a little nicer than we found it.

Monday, July 25th

To start the week off, we did a trash sweep of College Woods. We do this sweep every Monday morning, and every Friday afternoon to make sure people can enjoy a nice, clean park.

After our sweep, we worked on bringing sand that had blown out of the playground back where it was suppose to be.


This was a hard job, but the kids loved playing in the bog piles of sand we brought in for them!


On Monday, we also had the honor of meeting with Susan Holahan, from the Tom Holahan Park Foundation, that provides the funds to make this program possible. She showed us the memorial for Tom in College Woods, and told us about how dedicated he was to peace and social justice. It was very inspiring to hear how this program began. We would like to thank the Holahans for everything they do that makes our important work possible!

After chatting with Susan, we began work removing layers and layers of dead leaves in the trees along Cold Spring Drive.

After a lot of work, and A LOT of leaf piles…


…We got this area looking good as new! Now, grass will be able to grow!


Tuesday, July 26th

On Tuesday, we began working on the College Woods entrance garden!


It was overgrown with mugwort and other weeds, and covered in dead leaves. You could’t even read the sign from the street!

We began work by pulling out all that nasty mugwort, and bagging it up so it wouldn’t re-root anywhere in the park.



Wednesday, July 27th

This morning, we got right back to work on the entrance garden! We cleared all we could from the area around the sign, mulched it, and we weeded and swept the area leading into the park.

20160802_124303And the end result was well worth all the hard work!

Thursday, July 28th

On Thursday, the team headed back to Pardee Rose Gardens to help out with another volunteer day! But this time, the team hiked from the Trowbridge Environmental Center at College Woods to the gardens. The great system of trail got us there quick!…And in the shade!


The great system of trail got us there quick!…And in the shade!

At the rose garden, we got to work helping them to weed out most of their larger beds. They were getting a delivery of mulch that afternoon, so they wanted to have the beds as clear as possible to help suppress future weeds!


Friday, July 29th

Friday was a VERY rainy day, so the team spent it in the rangers station, working on their posters and presentation for the end-of-the-program dinner celebration next week!

How time flies! See you next week!


Youth@Work 2016 Week 3

Welcome Back!


This week was full of field trips for the crew! After spending two weeks really getting to know East Rock, we spent 4 out of 5 days working off-site, exploring our community. We met a lot of great people and did a lot of great work. We also learned that we were not the only ones spending their summer spreading mulch and pulling weeds. Solidarity!

Monday, July 18th

This was the only day the crew did spend entirely at the park–and it was ANOTHER hot and humid day.

We started off by weeding the area in front of the ranger station, and women’s bathroom entrance.


It was hard working in the sun, but we were eventually able to clear most of the weeds that had grown through the gravel.


The crew then moved on to sprucing up the park benches in College Woods. We were noticing that weeds were beginning to surround some of the benches.

As a team, the crew went from bench to bench, weeded and then spread gravel around the bench to prevent the weeds from growing back.


Hard work! But the benches looked good as new by the end of the day.


Tuesday, July 19th

Tuesday was our first day off-site, and we were lucky enough to spend it with the New Haven Land Trust working at one of their community gardens sites.

Grand Acres garden located in Fair Haven

The staff welcomed us and explained all the projects they had in mind for us!



Of course the crew got right to work on the hardest job of the day: digging 32 inch holes!

(Got to get it out of the way!)


These holes will eventually be filled by a fence that the NHLT Youth@Work crew is building over their summer program. It was great to meet, and be able to lend a hand to another crew.

That morning we learned just how deep 32 inches was.

The next project was helping to rebuild old raised beds that needed to be replaced. Rocco and Carlos help pull out the rotten wood, and then applied their carpentry skills to construct the new bed around the existing garden!

Good as new.

Next, the newly-constructed compost bins needed a few final additions before it was ready for use.

The crew measured and marked up the composite wood, lined it up, and drilled in the top layer of boards.

The final project of the day was staining the picnic bench that we had been enjoying our water breaks and lunches on throughout the day.



We had a great day working with the garden crew at NHLT. A big thanks to Justin Elicker and Emily Sloss for leading us through these projects!

Wednesday, July 20th

 On Wednesday, we spent the day with Ranger Dan at the Urban Oasis at East Shore park.


There is a beautiful butterfly garden that needed a little bit of weeding and mulch!


The garden was full of flowers and buzzing pollinators! We we even able to spot a hummingbird!

We got to work removing any grass, ragweed, or mugwort we saw in the garden.


We we really careful not to disturb all the beautiful milkweed in the garden.

20160720_094433The milkweed is vital habitat for caterpillars that grow into Monarch butterflies.


Ranger Dan, David Shimchick and the crew take a much needed PIZZA BREAK!!

By the end of the day, the Urban Oasis was looking pretty great!


Despite the hot, dry days the flowers are still blooming and beautiful. We highly recommend checking it out.


Thursday, July 21st 

Thursday morning was spent at the GORGEOUS Pardee Rose Gardens.

We joined Matthew Nash and the weekly volunteer work party at the gardens. The work parties take place every Thursday from 9:30-12pm and are great to be a part of!

We worked along-side members of the community who were working towards their master gardener certifications. We learned a lot about tending flowers!


We spent our time weeding out rose beds that lined the front fence of the garden. The staff were very grateful to have our help!

We had a great time working at the garden, and will even be returning next week to help out some more!

In the afternoon, we returned to the park and spent the afternoon weeding and remulching some of the younger trees in College Woods.





Friday, July 22nd

On Friday, we traveled to Edgewood park to plant a tree with the Friends of Edgewood Park Youth@Work crew, along with the Urban Resources Initiative!


We were planting 3 Tupelo (or Black Gum) trees near the stream within the park. Associate director of URI, Chris Ozyck, explained to us that there were a few Ash trees in the area we were planting. Unfortunately, these trees were, or would soon be, affected by the Emerald Ash Borer. The Ash Borer is a  beetle native to eastern Asia that feeds on ash species, and has killed many ash trees in North America.


Knowing this, the URI team wanted to get a head start on replanting trees that would be similar to the Ash tree in these spots.

So, we split into 3 groups, and began the process of planting a tree!


It was hard work, but by the end we had planted 3 trees that the community will enjoy, and benefit from for many years to come.

This was a really great experience, and we really thank the URI summer intern team for spending this VERY warm summer morning with us!

We returned to the park for lunch (and ice cream provided by Ranger Dan!!) and one more quick project to end our week.

We spread mulch on the outside of the playground fence. This area could be used as a garden bed in the future!






Another great week in the books! We can’t believe there are only 2 more week left…!

Youth@Work 2016 Week 2

Welcome Back!


This week the crew did a lot of hard work, in a lot of HOT and HUMID weather. Take a look!


Monday, July 11th

   We started the week off by returning to the knotweed site we cleared in week 1. To slow the growth of more knotweed, we mulched the area we had pulled.



 Hopefully this area will stay clear, and it will be ready for all the beautiful flowers that will be planted there in the fall!


Looking good!


After finishing up there, we moved on to tackle more knotweed…



Everything looks better with a fresh layer of mulch!

Tuesday, July 12th

On Tuesday, the crew had the awesome opportunity to work with Friends of East Rock member, David Budries. He invited us to his beautiful back yard, and showed how to make swallow boxes!


David was nice enough to cut all of our pieces before we got there, so we just had to measure, and mark up our wood.20160712_09202620160712_092253

We definitely learned the importance of ‘measure twice, cut once’


This was the first time woodworking for some on our team, and some have had experience before, but everyone learned something new.


David gave us a great tutorial on how to use a power drill. We learned that it was important to let the drill do most of the work, and not to apply too much pressure–but just enough!



These swallow boxes will be installed by the Y@W crew this summer around Rice Field.


They put their initials on their box, so they could tell which one was theirs when they walk by it in the future!

Thank you so much David! We had a great time!


After our bird houses were built, we headed back to the park to continue our work.

We had some more mulching to do behind the Ranger station. We lined the drain against the wall with stone dust to protect the building, and filled in the rest with mulch.




Wedneaday, July 13th

Canoeing down the Mill River!!


A big THANK YOU to the New Haven Parks and Rec department for setting us up for canoeing with the Friends of Edgewood Park Y@W crew.

It was great to meet another group of kids doing a lot of the same great (and hard) work we have been doing.



Canoeing was a great way to spend the morning, but then it was back to work!

There has been a tree on the White trail that’s roots have been becoming more and move uncovered, creating a tripping hazard for hikers and runners.


Along with help from David Shimchick, the Y@W crew filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with crushed stone in order to level it all out!


This was a tough job! Believe me when I say, those rocks we not light!

But after a lot of teamwork, and water breaks, we finished the job!


Now the trail is safe for all!

Thursday, July 14th 

We started this day at the ERP outlook. It is a beautiful spot to sit and observe nature, but it was a little over grown.



The trails leading down to the river was covered with leaves and debris.


And there were many leaves and weeds that needed to be cleared by the outlook.


So we got to work!


We put down a new layer of mulch, as well as a new layer of crushed stone under the benches.


We raked and swept both trails, and cut back any branched that were hanging into the walking paths.


And here is the finished product! The outlook is clean and clear.

To finish out the morning, we used stone dust to fill in holes that appear in the park paths when rain water erodes them.




In the afternoon, we had an awesome opportunity to meet with the city of New Haven’s landscape architect Dave Moser! He met us in the ranger station after lunch, and share with us his journey from graduating high school, to finally arriving at the career he has now! For the 2 in-coming seniors on our team, this was helpful information. They will be applying to school and making these decisions for themselves soon. It is always helpful to hear successful people tell you that it is a tricky time for everyone!

He also shared with us all the projects he had worked on in East Rock Park, we were amazed to see how many different projects he did! Now every time we walk through the College Woods entrance, we remember that someone planned that out very meticulously, and that we met the guy who did it! We would like to thank Dave again for taking time to talk with us!

Friday, July 15th 

Friday was the HOTTEST day of the program so far. 92 degrees and humid! We finished moving some gravel on the White trail and did a trash sweep of College Woods, but then we retreated to air conditioning!

We went to the British Art Museum!


We used the information Dave Moser had shared with us on Thursday about all the different aspects of designing a greenspace, and we observed some planned landscapes we saw in the gallery.

We spent time looking at each planned landscape, and took notes about what we noticed they each included. We were going to use this information to plan out our own greenspace, so we made sure to noticed the parts of the landscape we wanted to include in our own.

Things we noticed:

Water features, fishing access, surrounded by nature, animals, formal gardens and hedging, tree lines, and many of the planned landscapes we saw were surrounded by high walls.

We headed back to the park for lunch, and then we began our designs.

It was really cool to see the different plans we each came up with.

Kay’s design was really focused on nature, and having a place to people to feel like they were totally surrounded by nature. She also included a really large ranger station, so visitors had a place to learn about the greenspace.

Carlos’s design was very inspire by some of the formal English gardens we saw at the gallery. He included hedges surrounding a large water fountain and a large ranger station as well, but this had the design on a large castle!

Rocco’s design was very much a city park like East Rock. Dog park, community gardens and plenty of trees!

My design was pretty similar to Rocco’s. I wanted a community garden, play structures, an urban oasis, and…a swimming hole! Great for a day like Friday.


And then we ended the day in the only way you can on a hot summer Friday afternoon…with ICE CREAM!



See you next week!

Youth@Work 2016 Week 1

Welcome to the Youth@Work 2016 Blog!

We are really excited to have a great group of kids working with us this summer, to keep East Rock Park beautiful! Remember to check the blog periodically to see all the different projects we will be tackling this year.

Meet this year's Y@W crew: Carlos, Kay, Isaiah, and Rocco!
                      Meet this year’s Y@W crew: Carlos, Kay, Isaiah, and Rocco!


My name is Sarah Bethel, and I am very excited to be the crew leader, and author of the blog this summer!

Week one was hot, humid, and lots of fun! Despite the heat (and the bugs) the team got right to work on different parts of the park that needed a little care.

Tuesday, July 5th

After the holiday weekend, the crew started the workday with a HUGE trash sweep of College Woods.

There was a lot to pick up. Full grills, charcoal and lots of paper plates, plastic cutlery, and cans and bottles were picked up.



 It is so important to try your best to leave no trace when picnicking in the park. It makes more enjoyable for people, plants, and animals who rely on the park.


The crew was able to get College Woods back to the way it looks best: free of trash.



The crew then moved on to sprucing up the playground at College Woods.





Raking fallen leaves, sweeping sand and pulling weeds got the playground looking great!

The little kids at the park loved watching the big kids taking care of their park.


After a morning full of hard work, we took the afternoon to explore the park, and to get to know each other. We decided to hike to Whitney falls!


Half of the team had never been there before, and it was great to see all the beauty the park has to offer.



The mist off  the falls was SO refreshing after working in the heat!20160705_132325

We ended our first day very tired, but feeling good about what we had already accomplished.

Wednesday, July 6th


On day 2, we started off with some stretching and yoga led by East Rock community member and yoga instructor Ashley Emerson! She was nice enough to join us at 8 in the morning, and teach us the best ways to stretch our muscles to make sure we don’t injure ourselves doing the heavy lifting and hard work that comes along with the program.

Ashley taught us how to find and notice our breath. This is a great technique for managing stress.

After learning some great techniques, we make sure to stretch before work in the morning, and in the afternoon before heading home.


After our morning yoga session, Ranger Dan gave the team a great talk about the birds in the park. We learned all about the different species and how to spot them.  


Ranger Dan shows the team a Fisher Cat pelt. They are native to Connecticut, and can sometimes be found in the park.

Ranger Dan passed it around so we could feel it and smell it. It was very soft!

Then he gave us a pair of binoculars, and we went out into the park to see if we could find any ourselves!


The Bird feeder Ranger Dan puts out every morning is a great place to spot some beautiful birds. We saw blue jays, cardinals, red-winged black birds, and cowbirds hanging out there. Lots of squirrels too!


                                          Ranger Dan points out 3 robin’s nests!


       Ranger Dan points out some carvings in an American Beech tree. This is very      harmful to the tree, and makes the tree more susceptible to disease.

We also learned that looking into the other end of binoculars would allow us to look at things as if through a magnifying glass. We looked at flowers, slugs, mushrooms, and daddy long-legs up close!


We learned a lot, and saw a lot on our bird talk with Ranger Dan. We were able to spot a peregrine falcon nest, cat birds, more cardinals and blue jays, MANY robins, downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers, and a red tail hawk up close!! (I was too mesmerized to take pictures!)

Then, after lunch, the crew had to move on to a less enjoyable task…

removing Japanese knotweed!!


Knotweed is one of the most prevalent invasive species in the park, and also one of the hardest to eradicate. As a study done by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources states, “As much as two thirds of the mature plant’s biomass is stored underground in its extensive systems of thick rhizomes… In addition, fragments of both stem and root material can sprout, giving rise to new plants or entire colonies. While fragments near the soil’s surface are most likely to sprout, sprouting has been demonstrated from fragments up to 1 m (39 in) deep. Because of this, it presents an enormous threat along rivers, streams and floodplains, where plant parts may be washed downstream by flood waters. It can also be spread inadvertently during construction and road maintenance, by mowing crews and in fill dirt.” (Source: )

Having said all that…its pretty nasty.



This ended up being a two-day project for us, but we gave ourselves a pretty good start this afternoon.


Thursday, July 7th

To start the morning, we headed back to the corner of Orange Street and Farnam Drive to finish off the knotweed!




We removed 10 bags in total. It was a lot of work on such a hot day, but these kids work hard.


All the knotweed needs to be bagged up and thrown away– or else it could re-root and start growing again where every we leave it. Like I said, nasty stuff.


Next Monday we will head back to this site and cover the area with mulch. This will help to prevent the knotweed from re-growing too quickly.

After this big effort, we did a ‘sit spot’ activity in which each crew member found a spot by themselves along one of the trails throughout the park. They sat there for 25-30 minutes quietly observing the nature around them. I asked them to take notes on the things they noticed that stood out to them, and after the about a half an hour, we all came back together to share what we had seen.

Some of the crew were sitting by the Mill river, and noticed frogs, fish, birds (blue jays and great egrets!), and unfortunately trash floating down the river. One of the crew members even tried out the bird calls that Ranger Dan had taught us on Wednesday.

Other members sitting away from the water on the trail noticed an increase in people passing by them, and chipmunks!

We had a great conversation about what we noticed and how our sit spots were different. This is definitely an activity we will do again.

In the afternoon, the crew did a great job clearing the Black trail from the entrance at East Rock Road all the way to the Whitney Gate.



There were many fallen leaves on the trail from the past year, but we were able to rake it out, and get it back to looking great.


This will make it safer for runners and more enjoyable for hikers throughout the park.


The crew was happy, but VERY tired when we finished up. This was the hottest, and most humid day all week!

Friday, July 8th

On Friday, we were lucky enough to have Ranger Dan give us another talk on the invasive species in the park. This will be really helpful information for the crew throughout the rest of the program. We will be pulling out many of these species!



As we walked through the trails, Ranger Dan pointed out and described some of the most invasive, non-native species in the park. Some of the most prevalent were:  Norway maple, bittersweet, knotweed (but we already knew that), garlic mustard, winged euonymus, multiflora rose, and barberry.

          winged euonymus, or ‘burning bush’

                                   Multiflora Rose








After the invasives talk, Ranger Dan needed our help removing a large tree that had recently fallen across the white trail.




The crew was really interested in watching Ranger Dan chainsaw the tree. It was a difficult job, but we learned a lot watching him make different cuts.


Periodically, we would remove debris so he could have a clear path to the tree.




Eventually, we had to move the large logs he had cut down so they wouldn’t block the path. They were HEAVY so we worked as a team to carefully roll them off to the side.


Now hikers have a clear path to reach the trail to the summit!



When we finished up we headed back to the Rangers station where David Shimchick and David Budries joined us for a pizza lunch, which was delicious! We chatted about the work we had done so far, and how the crew members felt after the first week of the program. Some people thought the program was what they were expecting before starting, but others were surprised to see the kind of work we will be doing. Everyone agreed that we hope for better weather next week!

After plenty of pizza and soda, we headed back out to accomplish a few more things before the end of the week. We focused on raking the picnic a and weeding and re-mulching the garden next to the playground.


We were happy with the work we had done, and agreed that it really made the area look nice.





We carefully moved it to a safe spot, and wrapped up a great first week of work!

See you next week!



Youth@Work 2015

Friends of East Rock Park (FERP) is proud to share the accomplishments of this year’s group of Youth@Work students.

Fatima, Kay, Bahaa, and Joshua
Fatima, Kay, Bahaa, and Joshua

2015 marks the seventh year FERP has run this program.  The youth each worked 25 hours per week for 5 weeks and were paid minimum wage by Youth@Work, a public-private partnership of the City of New Haven and Workforce Alliance.  FERP is grateful to Gwendolyn Busch and her team at Y@W for their support and administration of this excellent program which placed over 650 youths in positions this summer.

FERP is also grateful to two great Friends of East Rock Park:  Susan Holahan and Roger Ibbotson.  Susan (through the Tom Holahan Memorial Fund) and Roger generously contributed $1500 each to pay the youth’s supervisor, which for the second year in a row was FERP leader David Shimchick.  We could not run this program if it were not for their financial support.

FERP is also grateful to Ranger Dan Barvir for his support of the program and for working directly with us on several occasions. Thanks also go out to Mayor Harp, Parks Director Rebecca Bombero, Deputy Director Christy Hass, Gary Dickinson, and Martin Torresquintero for their ongoing dedication to the maintenance and improvement of New Haven’s vast park system which consists of over 2,275 acres of park land and all the facilities located in 142 parks!!

Week 1 Accomplishments:

  • LOTS of trash pickup in College Woods from the July 4th celebration
  • Cleaned and mulched the front entry to College Woods at Orange and Cold Spring.
  • MORE trash pickup along East Rock Park Road leading to Whitney Gate
  • Mulched the new plantings at the East Rock Road Bridge.
  • Cleaned the Whitney Gate Garden.
  • Pulled invasive mugwort and mulched the Cold Spring Steps Garden.
  • Swept the College Woods Playground and shoveled sand back to where it belongs.
  • MORE trash pickup on the White Trail to Rice Field and the View Street Playground in Cedar Hill.
  • Raked and removed weeds and vines from the View Street Playground.

Entrance to College Woods
Entrance to College Woods

Filling Ranger Dan's truck with mulch.
Filling Ranger Dan’s truck with mulch.

Amid all the freshly mulched plantings at the East Rock Road bridge.
The crew resting amid all the freshly mulched plantings at the East Rock Road bridge.

Bahaa and Joshua with all the tools to clean Whitney Gate.
Bahaa and Joshua with all the tools to clean Whitney Gate.

An immaculate Whitney Gate Garden
An immaculate Whitney Gate Garden

The Cold Spring steps garden leading up to College Woods - free of invasive mugwort and freshly mulched!
The Cold Spring steps garden leading up to College Woods – free of invasive mugwort and freshly mulched!

The crew tackles the College Woods playground with brooms and shovels!
The crew tackled the College Woods playground with brooms and shovels!

It didn't look like this when we started!!!
Spic and span for the neighborhood kids and all the visitors to College Woods.

The crew tackles the entrance to the View Street Playground in Cedar Hill.
The crew tackles the entrance to the View Street Playground in Cedar Hill.

Week 2 Accomplishments:

  • Monday morning Trash pick-up!
  • Cleaned the lone staircase leading up from the White Trail to English Drive and the steps at Colonial Spring.
  • Cleared invasive knotweed at the end of Orange Street.
  • Spread mulch where we will plant daffodils in the fall.
  • Hiked to the Summit and up the spiral staircase to the top of the monument.
  • Weeded and spread mulch over at the East Shore Park butterfly garden.
  • Planted trees with Edgewood Y@W.

Nice work, Team!

A little break by the Mill River.

Look at all that invasive knotweed!

Learning about butterflies from Ranger Dan.

The team amid the weeded and mulched butterfly garden at East Shore Park.

Meet and Greet at Edgewood Park before a few hours of tree planting.

Susan Holahan welcomes the two Y@W crews to Edgewood Park.

Fatima and Kay hard at work.

Kay and Fatima wonder why they are the only ones working!!

URI’s Ross Bernet gives some pointers on proper tree planting.

The combined crews pose with some neighborhood kids around the newly planted tree.

Knotweed is no match for this team!!

Week 3 Accomplishments:

  • Did a complete trash pick-up loop:  all of College Woods and East Rock Park Road to the Whitney Museum and back along the White Trail.
  • Primed barrels for annual trash can painting project and practiced block lettering and drawing.
  • Mulched a BIG pile on Cold Spring.
  • Worked with Ranger Dan over at the half basketball court across from Rice Field.  While he pruned the enormous Copper Beach we picked up all the cuttings.
  • Mulched at the end of Orange Street with members of the Land Trust Y@W crew.  Picked up trash at the Summit after hiking up.
  • Painted and decorated the 5 trash barrels with Aicha!

The crew primes the trash barrels so the top coat and painted designs adhere better!

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’.  Fatima and Bahaa keep on Rollin’!

Pruning the Copper Beach behind the half basketball court at Rice Field with Ranger Dan.

Thanks to the New Haven Land Trust Y@W crew, we spread this massive pile of mulch in record time.  Many hands make light work.  Well, not exactly light.

Don’t be messin’ with this power team!

Not a bad view for picking up trash!

Cody joined our painting ranks again this year and shared his artistic talents!

From start to finish this was Bahaa’s barrel!

We were so very lucky to have Aicha lead the barrel painting project again this year. Take a look below at what these initial white lines became!

Isn’t that just amazing?

It was all about Flower Power for Fatima!