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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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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.
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