Archive | July 2014

2014 Week 3: Ranger Dan Hike, David Moser Visit, Trowbridge Weeding, and Bat Houses with David Budries

Ranger Dan Barvir joined us Monday morning for an educational hike from College Woods, across Rice Field, and up the Orange Trail to Indian Head.  He pointed out different native and invasive plants, and shared his extensive knowledge of fungi and insects.  Ranger Dan has an encyclopedic mind of the natural world, especially our 425 acre corner of it. As we climbed he noted where the sandstone ends and the basalt begins.  We wound our way up to Indian Head across the English Drive bridge and a back trail passing swaths of fern and moss which grow on the cooler, shadier side.IMG_4554

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Indian Head affords fantastic views towards the Summit and West Rock in the distance, as well as views of Downtown, Rice Field, and the harbor to the East.  It is from this location that the 4th of July fireworks are launched!  The foundation upon which the kids are sitting is one of two on Indian Head that supported artillery cannons during World War I.  Before heading back down, Ranger Dan showed us 300 year old oaks – small in stature and graced with thick, waxy leaves that retain moisture in this rather arid area of our park.  We then spent the afternoon mulching the large gardens on both sides of the Orange Street steps where our native asters are just beginning to bloom.

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Tuesday morning began with making repairs to the pathways in the middle of College Woods after Monday night’s monster rain storm which cut deep trenches.  After that we prepared some questions to ask David Moser, New Haven’s Landscape Architect, who was coming to talk with us so that we could learn a little about him personally, the skills required to be a landscape architect, and his involvement with the city parks.  David visited us in the activity room of the Ranger Station and shared some of the “tools” he uses in his position as well as detailed architectural drawings for the recent restoration of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument which sits atop the Summit and computer-generated pictures of the View Street playground.  When asked what he likes best about his job, David said it was being able to be creative – “starting with an idea, putting all the pieces together – culminating in a final project that becomes a space people can be in enjoying themselves.”  Thank you, David!

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In the afternoon we began a very tedious, much needed job that we worked on at different times over the next several days – removing all the weeds that had grown in the stone dust between the pavilion and the ranger station, and then hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of fresh stone dust to the spot, spreading it, and packing it down.  There was not a lot of enthusiasm for this project!!

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Thankfully, David Budries, FERP member and chair of the Sound Design program at the Yale School of Drama, provided us with an amazing project – staining and then constructing four bat houses and two bluebirds houses!  David had acquired plans from Bat Conservation International and had cut out the numerous wood pieces for us in advance.  On Wednesday we stained them all in my garage.

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Thursday was assembly day!  David, a consumate educator, had four work stations all laid out for us upon our arrival.  He then showed the kids how to drill countersink holes, and they practiced on scrap wood.  Then we got to work assembling these very elaborate structures using drills for making holes and drills for putting in screws, wood glue, and caulking.  Lending assistance was FERP member Kevin McCarthy and our URI intern James Stephenson.  This project was fun and challenging and required a lot of concentration and direction-following since none of us, including David, had ever made bat houses before!  It was an amazing project and FERP is grateful to David Budries for his leadership, his time and resources, and for providing our youth with a very unique work experience.  The four bat houses will be mounted in trees 12 feet above the ground near the Mill River where it is dark and damp – perfect for bats!  Mounting is next week’s project!!  Thank you, David, Kevin, and James!

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

Stay tuned for more FERPYOUTH updates.

David Shimchick

dshimchick@comcast.net

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2014 Week 2: Garden Stewardship, Canoeing, Sketching, and Tree Planting

College Woods was in need of lots of TLC after the 4th of July, so Week 2 began using grippers and buckets to pick up trash in and around College Woods. After that we gathered up tools of the gardening variety and pushed two wheelbarrows over to Whitney Gate where the one-way, heavily trashed, road thru the Park meets Whitney Avenue. FERP has tended this garden each year since the rebirth of FERP in 2008, and our Y@W students have become the primary stewards.  Several local residents faithfully pick up trash along this route.  We thank them for their stewardship!!

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We hiked back to College Woods only to find that two of the kids’ phones had been stolen right out of the Ranger Station where they had been stowed thinking it was safe! (FERP compensated the kids for their devastating loss.)  Thankfully, the kids recovered enough to go off canoeing on the Mill River with the Parks and Recreation crew.  Thank you, Martin, Ranger Dan, Elizabeth and her crew!!

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Tuesday was a beastly hot, humid day which did not begin until the afternoon as Tuesdays are our scheduled summer worknights with our intern, James Stephenson, from URI (Urban Resources Initiative.)  Our first project was cleaning the Overlook in College Woods – the lovely, contemplative spot overlooking the Mill River where the “Geology of East Rock Park” kiosk is located. (The informational sign was created a few years ago by the Peabody Museum, installed by the Parks Department, and paid for by FERP donations.)  We raked, shoveled and swept the steps leading down to the river, picked up trash, and freshened the stone dust.  Just as we had completed that work, the Parks Department delivered a large pile of mulch which we spread into position.  Thank you to Becky Bombero, Christy Hass, Gary Dickinson and the Parks Department crew for their support and timely supply of materials!

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After a pizza break we tackled the Japanese Knotweed jungle that had regrown at the end of Orange Street on the left hand side.  This spot is an ongoing FERP project and stewardship zone where hundreds of daffodils bloomed in the spring.  Knotweed is one of the park’s most invasive species and is very difficult to eradicate.  Ongoing effort is needed to maintain visibility onto the White Trail for the safety of our park runners and walkers.  Thank you, James Stephenson and FERP member Aicha Woods who joined us in this Knotweed Battle.

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Aicha and Jet joined us first thing Wednesday over at Colonial Spring.  She had us look closely at a small object and draw it several times.  We then drew a bit more of the scene or a larger image in an ongoing effort to capture some of our Park observations.   After that we gathered tools and tackled the area comprising the steps leading down to the spring and environs.  This is yet another FERP stewardship zone of which the Y@W interns have become the primary stewards each summer.  Repairs were made to Colonial Spring in the past year.  The poor drainage that plagued the area for years has been fixed and the pavers reset.  Thank you to David Moser, New Haven’s Landscape Architect for his leadership on this project, and to the City for funding the repairs to both Colonial Spring and Cold Spring near the canoe launch.

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The Parks Department had delivered mulch to the front entrance of College Woods at Orange and Cold Spring Streets so we spent the last part of our day getting most of it into position and clearing mud from the pavers at the entrance.  The gardens and sidewalks along Orange and Cold Spring had been cleaned of massive amounts of leaves early in the season thanks to the efforts of FERP volunteers and a large group of students from Quinnipiac University on a Saturday work day with Ranger Dan Barvir. This area had also been mulched prior to Rock to Rock back in late April when our park was abloom with daffodils.  The Parks Department does a wonderful job maintaining all the grass areas, emptying all the trash, maintaining trails, and removing downed trees in our Park.  (Did you know Park Maintenance is responsible for the care and maintenance of 2,275 acres of park land and all the facilities located in 142 parks!!) But FERP is also instrumental in keeping our park as well groomed, inviting, and safe as it is.  None of this would be possible without community members who volunteer their labor and those who donate money to run our programs and purchase our materials.  East Rock Park depends on this vital partnership between the Parks Department and FERP.  Please support FERP!

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On Thursday we traveled to Edgewood Park to plant trees with two other Y@W groups working this summer with the Friends of Edgewood Park and the New Haven Land Trust.  Supervising the tree planting were URI interns Mariana and James, and the other Y@W supervisors Kate and Bethaney.  Our team is comprised of some very strong kids with great energy so they were excellent diggers of holes that needed to be 4 feet across and about 2 feet deep!  Damian showed he knows how to wield a pitch fork to hack out the roots of an old tree.  Just getting the trees off the truck was no small accomplishment either!

At Edgewood the youth had the opportunity to meet Susan Holahan who administers the Tom Holahan Memorial Fund in her late husband’s memory.  Tom was actively involved in park stewarship and Susan has again generously funded half of the $3000 stipend paid to FERP’s  Y@W supervisor.  This program would not be possible without this generous donation and the matching funds from Roger Ibbotson.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

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

Stay tuned for more FERPYOUTH updates.

David Shimchick

dshimchick@comcast.net

Introducing FERP’s 2014 Youth@Work

FERP’s Youth@Work program is underway!  Summer 2014 marks the sixth year FERP has provided this unique park stewardship experience for city youth. Five students are working under the supervision of FERP’s co-leader David Shimchick this summer. They will be working approximately 6 hours each day, Monday thru Thursday, for five weeks.  The youth are paid minimum wage through the Youth@Work program which is administered by the City of New Haven and receives its funding primarily from the State of Connecticut and from private donors.  Half of the supervisor stipend is funded again this year by the Tom Holahan Fund (administered by Susan Holahan).  The other half is generously funded by Roger Ibbotson.

2014 Youth at Work Students:  Alissa Alston, Roger Yopp, Andrew Moore, Damian Irizarry, and Omar Rosario Diaz

2014 Youth at Work students: Alissa Alston, Roger Yopp, Andrew Moore, Damian Irizarry, and Omar Rosario Diaz

As you can see from the photo, FERP provided our students with their “uniforms” – two FERP t-shirts.  The kids also received other necessities: water bottles, bug spray, sun screen, a map of ERP, a journal, and writing implements.

Our projects the first week included:

  • Picking up trash along several trails: the unmarked trail across College Woods to Whitney Gate; the White Trail to Rice Field and the View Street Playground in Cedar Hill; the entrance to English Drive up to the Summit via the Giant Steps; and the White Trail to the Eli Whitney Museum.
  • Shoveling and sweeping sand in the playground
  • Hauling and spreading mulch (provided by the Parks Department) under the swings and in the “turtle” playground in College Woods.
  • Weeding the large gardens on either side of the steps leading down to Orange Street.
  • Hauling and spreading stone dust (also provided by the Parks Department) on the Orange Street steps.
Shoveling and sweeping sand in the playground.

Shoveling and sweeping sand in the playground.

Youth@Work provides a wonderful opportunity for city youth to earn some money.  Unfortunately, less than 500 of the 1200 applicants received a job this summer!  But besides earning some money, FERP’s program also aims to introduce our kids to members of the community who both work and volunteer in New Haven.  This week our kids met FERP co-leader and Cedar Hill resident Betty Thompson who thanked them for the stewardship.  They also met local architect and FERP member Aicha Woods who met us at the Yale Center for British Art for an exhibit entitled “Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower”:  Artists’ Books and the Natural World.  FERP provided small sketch journals and drawing pencils to our youth for the purpose of capturing their observations both at the exhibit and during their Youth@Work experience this summer in East Rock Park.

Aicha and the crew at the Yale Center for British Art.

Aicha and the crew at the Yale Center for British Art.

We reflected on the nature of work. Work is:

  • Roger: “chopping down trees.”
  • Alissa: “to be active.”
  • Damian: “a way to build character.”
  • Andrew: “physically and mentally draining.”
  • Omar: “responsibility.”
  • Me (David): “a way to build self-esteem.”

Besides work, our fun included:

  • writing in our journals
  • devouring Italian Bomb pizza
  • getting soaked in the View Street splash pad on a steamy day
  • swinging on the College Woods swings.
  • a trip to FroyoWorld

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

Stay tuned for more FERPYOUTH updates.

David Shimchick

dshimchick@comcast.net