On Wednesday, October 19, 2022, WHSAD students left their classroom environment in cooperation with the Greenbelt Conservancy Corps to explore a new environment for another year. For many of us, this was an opportunity to see NYC outside of the traffic and noise. And for others, a way to start their careers. Last year, half of the program was online, and we weren’t able to experience it in its entirety, but this year, students will be able to collaborate with each other to help make the Greenbelt Park more accessible for everyone. Our experience at Greenbelt was an informational and exciting experience, in which we learned about the park we would be working in.
Today was an exhilarating experience that I thought I would never get the chance to have. We visited the Greenbelt Nature Conservatory, a vast swath of multiple state parks and nature preserves spanning 35 miles and almost 3,000 acres. I absolutely love nature, so I was more than excited to go, and when I found out what we would be doing, I couldn’t wait to go try it out for myself.
I learned many different new things from the trip, one of which was the importance of morals and ethics. At Greenbelt, the people who work at the nature center have one main goal in mind: to help make the forests that occupy greenbelt, safe, flourishing, accessible, and fun for all visitors involved. Therefore, it is imperative that we all keep in our minds the importance of such things. Another thing I learned was the various different types of nature that inhabit the park. I, for one, had never seen any species of snake before this day, but we managed to catch a small Garter snake and get a good view of it (I took some pictures of the creature before we let it go). Also, another thing I learned was how to make s’mores. I had always heard of this activity being a beloved pastime of many people, and was curious to see what it would be like, but never before had a chance to do so. However, I got that chance today, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. The s’mores themselves were absolutely delicious, and I received many compliments on how well I could roast the marshmallow. All in all, today was a tremendous learning experience for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have gotten the opportunity to have it.
I would love to learn how, exactly, we are going to formulate a plan to preserve the Greenbelt while we are attending these sessions for the project. I want to get active and be able to make a physical effort to keep the parks pristine for our future generations to enjoy. I would also like to learn how we can apply such types of efforts towards preserving nature and respecting the environment in our everyday lives, as I believe that this experience that we will have at Staten Island’s Greenbelt is not just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a fun getaway from school, or even only a part of our school’s curriculum; but, rather, learning to protect the environment will be a life-long skill that we will keep with us as we continue to work.
I have been imagining how I might be able to contribute to the Greenbelt project, and I have decided that I would make a great planner. As the main objectives of the project are preserving the park from dangers like destructive human activity and natural phenomena, among other things, and also that I am not really one to do hard physical labor, I think that I would be far better adjusted to constructing & laying out the plans for everyone who is better suited for the physical work to execute. I think this especially as I am far better at observing and giving feedback with my own opinion regarding a situation, than being active in the situation itself.
All in all, today was tiring, exhilarating, fascinating, and full of all sorts of great new things that I learned. I hope very much that I will get the opportunity to join back at future Greenbelt projects for this year and the next one, and maybe return to visit the park on my own time one day. I adore nature very much, and I promise that you will not regret choosing me to be one of the 20 lucky students to continue attending the project and help make Greenbelt more accessible, fascinating, and beautiful for all our future generations to enjoy.
After doing two introductory activities, we went on a hike around the park. My group’s guide, Chris, had a lot of information to give throughout the hike. One major thing he was explaining to us is the park’s efforts to be more accessible to groups such as elderly people and disabled people. A project they were working on was elevating walking trails to make it easier for people in wheelchairs to pass by. The elevations would be made with wooden boxes filled with lumber, mineral soil, and rocks to raise the ground. Although they haven’t tested it out, they are willing to make improvements to have wheelchair-accessible parks. Another small but informational fact is that the park is a deciduous forest. This means that the trees’ leaves fall off once it’s autumn. Something quite entertaining that was said, is that one of the trails we walked on had supposed sightings of a woman in a white gown that would sing, usually during the month of October. Many students made comments that if they heard ANY singing at all they would be leaving the premises!
Something that lacked throughout the trip was the absence of seating areas. So I want to know why there weren’t a lot of seating areas, especially since I saw a lot of elderly people walking in the park. So a couple of benches would go a long way in giving them small breaks unless they are resting on large rocks found throughout the walking trails. Something I can see myself doing is definitely working, as that’s the main reason most of us students are there for. Another thing I can see myself doing is making new friends or making connections with the staff at Greenbelt.
My overall experience was positive since this was my first time participating in the trip and I really do hope I can have the opportunity to participate in the Greenbelt project throughout the school year. So as for first impressions, I had a positive experience with being around nature and it’s a nice change of pace from being in the city 24/7.
Coming back to the Greenbelt felt like I was rediscovering a part of myself that had been sealed off. Although I try to make time to envelop myself in nature, I often find myself distracted with other, less important things such as playing video games or watching television. On arrival, I could already feel myself becoming more relaxed, as we left the busy highway behind us and entered a new terrain altogether, with nature and wildlife flourishing everywhere. One second we happened upon an adolescent frog, the next we wandered into a young garter snake. Every step we took was an amazing opportunity to learn something new about the environment around us. For instance, did you know that the original inhabitants of Staten Island were the Lenape tribe of the Native Americans, and that they mainly lived off of shellfish discovered off the coast, or that the specific area of the Greenbelt that we were in loosely translates from Lenape to “The Land of the Bad Woods”, most likely because of the bedrock beneath Staten Island that made it hard for the Lenape to cultivate their agriculture in this area?
Overall, the trip was really educational and I can tell from just this first encounter that I’m going to enjoy the rest of the time that we spend on this project, whether it be in the Greenbelt, or elsewhere doing online work for the project. One thing that stuck with me is what one of the workers at the Greenbelt, Chris, told us, which is “although we’re putting in the work now, we most likely aren’t going to be the ones benefiting from it. It’s about more than just us and we have to look at the bigger picture”. I hope to gain knowledge on how to incorporate green and eco-friendly strategies into my architectural style through this internship with the NYC Parks Department and the Staten Island Greenbelt. Throughout this program, I can see myself being an asset to the team by contributing in all of the work that we are given, participating and representing our school in a positive outlook, and helping with the physical work that some students might be having a hard time with.
Today’s Greenbelt trip was a great experience and a nice start to this year’s program. I was excited to start participating in this program again because I had a great time last year. I wanted to continue helping the community by working with my team and designing better trails and maintaining the forest that we all cherish. It was great to see Mr. Ricker, Ms. Karen, Ms. Angel, and the rest of the team at the Greenbelt Nature Center and I had a great time reconnecting with them and participating in the ice-breaker activities before we started the day.
Today, we took part in a hiking tour around the new park where we would be working. As we walked throughout the park and got a chance to see many of the trails and the general environment we would be working with. My first impressions of the park were that it was just stunning. I loved seeing the changing colors due to the park being a deciduous forest and getting to learn more about the land that we were walking on. Throughout the hike, Mr. Ricker, who was our group leader, took many stops to explain and expand on many topics about the park such as its history, what it was used for, and other general information about the park. I learned that the park was first inhabited by the Lenape people who would migrate to the island yearly to gather resources and to take advantage of the large mollusk population that existed there. We also learned that they called the island the “Island of the Bad Forest.” Later in the hike, Mr. Ricker also explained to us that there was a huge population of young trees in the forest because the entire park was cut down due to the creation of boats and ships.
I think I see myself leading a group again this year. I want to improve the trails in any way possible but also give my group members a chance to step up and manage the group as well. One thing that Ms. Angel talked about after the hiking tour was stepping down and stepping up. She said that people who usually participated and led the groups should give a chance to people who usually don’t take the lead to step up. In this way, I want to step down a little bit and allow/assist others in leading projects this year.
The Greenbelt consists of more than 2,800 acres of public and private land in central Staten Island and includes natural areas and traditional parks. The Greenbelt Conservancy is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 that works in partnership with the NYC Parks to oversee the operation, administration and public use of the parkland of the Greenbelt. We worked with some of their members last year and this year we worked with the same people from the conservancy this year, albeit in a different section of the greenbelt.
The first day was used to get formalities out of the way and explore the area we would be working in. While exploring the sites, we came across and learned a lot of different things. For example, we came across a frog as well as an invasive bug called the spotted lantern fly, as well as a Garter snake, which we learned was commonly found in the area. We also found small elevated planks called puncheons that were thinner than usual puncheons, we later learned that they’re called duck-walks. The area called the greenbelt’s native inhabitants were the Lenape people who lived modern day in Delaware, New Jersey and Staten island, they called modern day Staten Island, Aquehonga Manacknong, in one of the Algonquian languages. The Lenape people were one of the first to make contact with European settlers so they don’t have much recorded history because they died out via wars with the Europeans and the diseases brought by them. Through this program, I want to learn more about the original inhabitants of Staten Island and the historical significance of the greenbelt parks and forests. One problem facing the parks was the issue of littering, along the trail, mostly found at intersections, you can find shattered glass and plastic, and you may even find people picking up after their dogs and leaving the poop bag strapped to a tree (which is counter intuitive from my perspective, I mean, just let it decompose naturally if your’e gonna do that -_- ). In the end, my main takeaway from this experience is that nature is beautiful and must be respected, protected, and not taken for granted.