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!


Mission Accomplished.

Week 4 Accomplishments:

  • Began the week with our first and only rainy day.
  • Indoor research about New Haven’s extensive park system and its challenges.
  • Visited the CT Agricultural Station on Huntington Street to learn from entomologist Gale Ridge and from Dr. Goudarz Molaei and his team at the Tick Testing Laboratory.
  • Built raised vegetable beds with the Land Trust Y@W team at Casa Otonal on Greenwood Street.
  • Cleaned Whitney Circle, the semi-circle overlooking the reservoir.
  • CANOEING with Y@W Land Trust and Y@W Edgewood.
  • Hauled MASSIVE amounts of trash from a steep hillside behind the Whitney Musuem with Y@W Edgewood.
  • Removed weeds from the stone dust between the Ranger Station and the pavilion.

Entomologist Gale Ridge showed us magnificent specimens from the CT Agricultural Station’s collection.


Y@W East Rock Park joined forces with Y@W New Haven Land Trust at Casa Otonal.


David steadies the drill for Fatima.


Kay and Fatima don their safety glasses to cut supports for the raised beds.


Two built and two more to go.


Great Power Tools Project!  Great Teamwork!  Great Mission!  Great to work alongside former FERP leader, Justin Elicker, Executive Director of the New Haven Land Trust.


Whitney Circle was filled with trash and leaves, and overgrown with weeds.


While Joshua shoveled decaying leaves onto the tarps


Fatima and Bahaa scraped the surface and removed weeds growing in the cracks.


With shovels, rakes, tarps and brooms the team transformed Whitney Circle from this…


to this…


and THIS!  That is quite a transformation!


This DISGUSTING amount of trash


had been thrown from Whitney Circle


and was strewn up and down the steep terrain in the area of the park behind Whitney Museum.


Joshua and David dragged it off the hillside


and Bahaa and Fatima dragged it further down to the trail.


We filled the wheelbarrows several times because the only way to get the trash out was to wheel in through the covered bridge to the truck on the other side. We were grateful for help from Y@W Edgewood.  Shame, shame, shame on the individual(s) who thought our park was the appropriate place to dump this garbage.


Thankfully, the day was not all about disgusting trash as the three Y@W crews met up to go canoeing on the Mill River thanks to the Parks Department.



With paddles in hand, we were soon on our way up the Mill to the Covered Bridge, down to the flood gates, and back to the Orange Street launch.


Weed filled stone dust before


our tenacious crew


made a difference to finish out our work for the week.

Final Week’s Accomplishments:

  • Shoveled and spread 5 tons of stone dust at the start of the White Trail on Orange Street.
  • Weeded and mulched around the Copper Beach, River Birch, small trees, and fence at the half basketball court across from Rice Field.
  • Shoveled and spread 5 more tons of stone dust where the trail meets Whitney Circle.
  • Celebrated our 5 weeks of work with family and friends and shared photo boards of all our accomplishments.

Stone dust is dense and HEAVY!


We covered these exposed roots which were a hazard to walkers and runners heading down to the White Trail from the end of Orange Street.


We made it safe from both directions.


Thumbs up, indeed!


It was back to the half basketball court and lawn across from Rice Field to weed and mulch around these river birch,


and along the fence,


and under the massive Copper Beech we pruned last week.


The 2015 Team:  David, Joshua, Bahaa, Fatima, and Kay


We shoveled this second 5 ton pile of stone dust into the wheelbarrow


and hauled it over to fill this deep and dangerous access to the White Trail leading from Whitney Circle.


We sure hope all the runners and hikers appreciate our efforts!


The power of youth!


At our Celebration we feasted on delicious food from Mamoun’s with family, friends, and FERP volunteers.


Kay’s grandmother Betty Thompson, mom Kenya, and sister Nadya, joined in the celebration.


Joshua shared photos of the team’s work with his mom and friend.

Wrap up:

It was another busy and productive summer for our Youth@Work stewards. Their dedication, cooperation, and willingness to work hard through the summer heat and aching muscles was remarkable.  Joshua, Fatima, Bahaa, and Kay did more than earn a paycheck for five weeks.  They made a difference.

2014 Fifth and Final Week: Bat and Bird House Installations, Rice Field Refuge, Orange Street URI Garden, Barrel Art, Last Stewardship Project, and Our Celebration!

FERP member David Budries put the finishing touches (paint and roof shingles) on the four bat houses we had built at the end of Week 3.  These fascinating structures are over 2.5 feet tall, 18 inches wide and 7 inches deep.  Being made of plywood, they are quite heavy!  So Monday morning’s first task was to get two of them mounted about 12 feet off the ground on two trees near the canoe launch in College Woods!  It was especially tricky to mount the first one because of the slope of the ground.  Safety was of paramount importance, so it was “hands on and heads up.”  Vacancy!  Bats Welcome!IMG_4744





Next, it was on to the far edge of Rice Field for the installation of our two bluebird/swallow houses under Ranger Dan’s direction.  We used a post hole digger and an iron bar to dig two-feet deep holes for the two supporting posts.  We all signed the predator guards.  Vacancy!  Bluebirds and Swallows Welcome!







After lunch it was time to start to design our barrels which at this point we had only primed and top-coated white!  The yellow paper was cut to match the circumference and surface area of each barrel.  Andrew had been demonstrating artistic talent in his sketch pad from the very first week, and he got right to work.  Alissa plunged right in also, and showed super skill at lettering!  Wait until you see the final results!!



On Tuesday, the guys cleaned a small garden along the path towards Rice Field and the Giant Steps. This small garden was one of FERP’s very first projects done in conjunction with URI (Urban Resources Initiative) during the summer of 2008! At that time, the delapidated bench was totally obscured by a tangled mass of invasives and was inaccessible. FERP’s partnership with URI has enabled so many projects to occur all over East Rock Park. On six weekly nights each summer since 2008, URI has paired FERP volunteers with an intern from Yale’s Forestry School who has offered expertise and guidance. URI has also supplied many plants, shrubs, trees, compost, and mulch which now grace Whitney Gate, College Woods, Orange Street, and Rice Field. URI depends on donations from the public to run its programs which benefit citizens all across New Haven, so please give generously to Urban Resources Initiative!IMG_4770



Tuesday evening was our final work night with URI’s James Stephenson who brought us six beautiful shrubs to plant at the end of Orange Street.  Thanks to East Rock resident, Billie Ladd, we also had a wheelbarrow’s worth of hosta which she had dug out the previous day from her garden!  Joining us for the planting, weeding, and mulching were Christine Bishop, Kevin McCarthy, and David Budries.  Although hundreds of daffodils, purchased and planted by FERP, have bloomed for the past two springs in this location, there was nothing else except some fern the remainder of the year.  Thank you to URI and James, and to our FERP members who modeled the spirit of volunteerism for our youth.






While all the planting was going on at the end of Orange Street, FERP member Aicha Woods was beginning the design painting phase of the barrel project back in my Canner Street garage.  Aicha enlisted the help of Andrew and five young East Rock artists:  Marlon, Margo, Cody, Alec and Milo.

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On Wednesday morning, we were back in the garage to transfer some of our design ideas to one still blank barrel and to add to the work started the previous day.  Penciled outlines were filled in with color.  More and more details were added.  Colors were blended and edges were blurred. Backgrounds were sponged on.  By lunchtime, the barrels were finished works of art!  Thank you, Aicha!



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On Wednesday afternoon we picked up trash yet again all around College Woods.  If only guests to the park would show respect for the natural world, and put trash where it belongs!!  Until then, those of us committed to stewardship keep picking up after them, because that is what we do.  Our final project brought us back to the playground where we had started on Day 1 of Week 1.  We removed clumps of crabgrass growing in a sand pit and swept the walkway.  Not a big project, but definitely a big difference!



The work day began at 1:00 on Thursday, our final day.  We spent the next several hours sorting through several hundred photos that had captured our five weeks of activity and achievements.  Themes emerged, and we glued related photos on to display boards:  Meet and Greet, Stewardship Projects, Arts and Parks, and Bat and Bird Houses.  WOW!  We accomplished a lot of work and, judging by many smiling faces, we must have had some fun, too!





Family and Friends began to arrive at 5:30 p.m. for our celebration.  We munched on yummy stuffed breads, chips and salad, ice tea and lemonade, and cookies and brownies while our guests viewed our photo exhibit.  Then we went on a short hike through College Woods pointing out several of our projects along the way culminating with the mounted bat houses at the canoe launch.





It has been a very busy and productive five weeks!  Many thanks to Andrew, Damian, Omar, Alissa, and Roger for all their hard work and to their parents and guardians for their support. Thank you to Ranger Dan Barvir and the Parks and Recreation Staff:  Becky Bombero, Christy Hass, Bill Dixon, Gary Dickenson, Wray Williams, Martin Torresquintero, Elizabeth and her crew.  Thank you to Mayor Toni Harp and City of New Haven personnel, especially Gwendolyn Busch and her team at Youth@Work. Thank you to Susan Holahan and Roger Ibbotson.  Thank you to James Stephenson, Mariana, and the staff of URI.  Thank you to fellow Y@W supervisors Kate Lichti and Bethaney Goodrich and to their Y@W students at New Haven Land Trust and Edgewood Park.  Thank you to Marlon, Margo, Cody, Milo, and Alec.  Special thanks to Betty Thompson, David Budries, Aicha Woods, Kevin McCarthy, Sara Morrison, Christine Bishop, David Moser, and Channing Harris.  Finally, thank you to FERP members whose donations purchased supplies, food, and materials needed to implement our Youth@Work program.  YOU ROCK!

Please support FERP.  Our website is

Please support the Tom Holahan Memorial Fund, Youth@Work, and URI.

In stewardship,

David Shimchick

2014 Week 4: Partnering with Land Trust, Channing Harris Visit, Urban Oasis, Kayaking, URI Tree Planting, and Barrel Priming

Week 4 began with the discovery of a non-native, Red Eared Slider Turtle near the basketball court in College Woods!  Our Monday ritual of trash pickup brought us along the Mill River to that lovely spot midway between the Overlook and the Boat Launch.  What a view!




The guys cleaned out the top couple of inches of soil below the water fountain outside the Ranger Station and hauled in fresh stone dust.  Then they had the satisfaction of completing the “Trowbridge Stone Dust Pit” project on the other side of the building.



On Monday afternoon we were joined by Kate Lichti and the three Y@W students working this summer for the New Haven Land Trust:  Chrystal and Chris Dickey and Eneida Martinez.  FERP Y@W  had already cleaned the steps coming down to Colonial Spring, so the project this day was to cut back the invasives in and around the area between where the bench is situated and the river.  Our invasive enemy was Multiflora Rose which we attacked with loppers and hedge clippers!  Afterwards we hauled mulch piled along Orange Street down the trail and used it to define the boundaries.  It never ceases to amaze what a crew of hardworking folks can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time!  Thanks to Kate and the Land Trust Y@W!






Tuesday was our day to return the work favor!  We ventured over to the Constance Baker Motley Housing Facility on Sherman Parkway which is the site of one of the many gardens maintained by the New Haven Land Trust.  Kate’s crew had already spent a day chopping down lots of overgrown weeds, but there was still a lot of work to do in this large, sadly neglected, garden.  Kate divided up tasks with many of us concentrating on clearing invasives in the large bed between two entrances to the garden.  This day our enemies were mostly Bittersweet and Mugwort!  It was a very hot day, and it was tough working in full sun.  We longed for the shade of East Rock Park!!  Eventually, the area we cleared will be replanted.  But being late July, we decided to lay in a heavy layer of mulch to prevent a reinvasion of weeds and to enrich the soil.  In time the residents, many of whom require wheelchairs for mobility, will once again be gardening thanks to the efforts of our combined crews.




Longtime Land Trust advocate and FERP member Ann Schenck brought the crew watermelon and encouraged their efforts.  Thank you, Ann!


On Tuesday afternoon Landscape Architect Channing Harris came to talk with us about how East Rock became a city park and how he enjoys viewing it as both “a piece of art and a piece of engineering.”  He proceeded to tell us about how it was designed in the late 1800’s by Donald Grant Mitchell, a tremendously creative and philanthropic artist who donated and also designed Edgewood Park.  What is now East Rock Park had once been privately owned land that included farm areas and a quarry! Wealthy industrialists recognized the importance of protecting this vital natural setting as a retreat from the growing urbanization of New Haven so they donated money and persuaded others to donate the funds needed to buy the land. Chief among these industrialists were the individuals after whom the main drives through the park are named: English, Farnham, Trowbridge, and Hillhouse.  Channing brought along copies of lovely renderings of Mitchell’s original designs, one of which hangs on the wall of the Trowbridge Environmental Center, and he explained how Mitchell specifically designed the hardscape of the park “to work with nature.”  How grateful are we who seek refuge and pleasure in the park today to these visionaries of yesterday! Thanks to Channing for sharing his knowledge with the guys, and for providing them with a historical perspective!


On Wednesday we were “on the road” again.  Our destination was the Urban Oasis garden in East Shore Park to work alongside Ranger Dan.  It is located adjacent to Hannah’s Playground.  This massive butterfly garden was created only last year.  Its edge with the grass needed to be redefined, and it had to be weeded and mulched.  Once again, there was no shade to provide relief.  It was HOT!  Most of the guys had visited and played in East Shore Park on numerous occasions.  I had never been before, and I was amazed at the size of yet another New Haven treasure and natural asset!  Wow!




Working in the Urban Oasis garden was hot, but we knew cooler times were ahead!  After we all devoured pizza in the Morris Cove area, we headed to meet our Land Trust friends to kayak for about an hour in the Sound off Lighthouse Point.  Our guides were again Elizabeth from the Parks Department and her crew.  This was a well-earned break from a couple of days working in the sun!  Fun!  Fun!  Fun! Thanks again to Martin Torresquintero, Elizabeth, and her crew, and the Parks Department who generously waived our fees in recognition of our hard work and stewardship of City property this summer.



On Thursday it was back to work!  James Stephenson, our intern from URI, brought a red oak to plant in a very prominent spot outside the Trowbridge Center.  We were joined by FERP members Kevin McCarthy and David Budries.  The guys were adept now at tree planting thanks to the experience gained in Edgewood Park during Week 2.  This crew knows how to work!








There was just enough time left in the afternoon to get started on a creative project – painting four trash barrels for display and use in College Woods.  Job #1 was to prime the plastic barrels so they would be ready to top-coat and then decorate during our upcoming and final week.



Please support FERP, the Tom Holahan Memorial Fund, and Youth@Work.

Stay tuned for more FERPYOUTH updates.

David Shimchick