On December 7, 2022, students make their last trip to LaTourette Park in the Staten Island Greenbelt before they separate into groups to create a proposal to make the park more accessible. Today, the entire group worked together to close a trail that had been reopened by hikers. Sometimes trails need to be closed because they are dangerous to use due to steepness and other factors. The park was muddy today due to rain and continued to get muddier as the rain started again during lunch. To close the trail, we had to collect thorn bushes to prevent people from getting access to the trail and branches and logs to make the trail look a part of the park. I look forward to the next semester of this trip as we work on our proposals to make the park accessible for everyone in the future while keeping the damage to the park to a minimum.
Below are some takeaways from students who attended.
Kiara Guerrero Ceballos, WHSAD Junior
My experience today at LaTourette Park was exciting. We hiked through the forest talking about safety, our plans of what is expected, and what needed to be done. We checked out the work sites and had to go through a steep and slippery path and a lot of people tripped and slipped on their way down. I thought it was funny. Teams of two were made, with Chris and Karen as the leaders; I was with Karen and in the group, we had different tasks. I volunteered to replant tree saplings that were planted before because people had removed them as they passed by. I think this time it was placed a lot better and deeper and could withstand more. While I planted the tree, other people in our group were tasked with moving branches, trees, thorns, etc. to block off the path that was made by people who wanted to take a shortcut, but it’s not a real path and could get people lost. As we worked, I came across a very small frog. It was really cute. We covered the trail until we met up with Chris’ team closing the other end of the trail. My team did very well and worked well together in my opinion. We shared working tools and used them responsibly. When we were all done, we noticed we were able to recover an extra tool that was forgotten and that was good. I had fun and it was nice even though the weather was not the best. Today was a good day.
Saba Gugava, WHSAD Freshman
It was raining today, so we got to experience what the trails were like in rainy conditions. When we first got started, we did a tool check. Karen needed to record how many tools we had so we wouldn’t lose any. We grabbed all the tools and continued down a trail on the left of the park. We first came across an unfinished project at the start of the trail. It was a ramp built over tree roots. Its function was to make way for wheelchairs and strollers, mainly for things that move on wheels. Then, we traveled to the trail that we were closing last time. Sadly, when we got there, a stubborn hiker pulled out all of the small trees we planted. We went further up the trail leading to ruins. We were told that the house was used for farming grapes, but the soil there couldn’t provide the grapes, so it was deemed useless. We were later split into two groups. The first group would work at the start of the trail and the second group would work at the end of the trail. I was put into the second group and we were split up again. Some people would soften up the ground to make it firm. The other people would find logs and rocks out in the woods to cover up the trail. My job was to fill up a bucket with leaves so I could sprinkle the trail with logs to hide it or make it more natural. When I finished, I went to the middle of the trail, where some people were moving fairly large logs and rocks to cover up the trail. When I looked back at the trail, it felt as if it was too obvious. The logs were laid directly on the trail and showed a clear path. We were later called up for lunch. We had Subway sandwiches. After lunch, we went back to the trail to do a little more work before we left. We did another tool check to see if we had everything, but we were missing one handsaw. One of the other students in the project luckily found it and brought it back to the other tools. On our way back, I carried one of the Black Locust logs. I did not think that the log would be that heavy. Later on, I swapped the log with a massive wheelbarrow. I had a hard time trying to gain control of the wheelbarrow, but in the end, I got it back to the observatory. Before we left, we talked about what we did today and why we were improving these trails. We even talked about the hazards and structures that the trails would require. Although we had fun, I was still a bit upset because Angel, another one of the leaders, wasn’t there. Overall, I had a great time and enjoyed being part of this project.
D’artagnan Dyasi, WHSAD Junior
Since we missed the last session at the LaTourette Park because of safety concerns, we had to work faster than usual since our timeline had to be pushed up. We still separated into two groups, but this time both groups would be working on one area. The idea was to use all our resources to finish one project as efficiently as possible and then move to the other project if there was time. The area we were working on first was a trail closure that I also worked on during the last session. This time, the group I was in was working on replanting some plants that were pulled out of the ground and then finding branches for trail closure while the other group would be working on closing the trail further down it. To close the trail at the bottom, my group found fallen branches around the area and placed them as randomly as we could on and around the trail and cut some thorn bushes along the trail and put them in the front of the trail. The beginning of the trail sort of looked like a mess of piled-up branches and thorns so some people might notice that it was a trail, but it was covered so much that even if they knew they wouldn’t be able to get past it safely.
Keaden Belle, WHSAD Freshman
When we arrived, we were greeted with a warm welcome. Then we got straight to work due to having missed a day, so we got the tools and walked up the forest. We walked a long way and because I was still sleepy, my body ached after we were only halfway through the trail. We stopped to talk about a little bridge another school had built for people in wheelchairs and families with strollers. We started back on our long walk and when we finally reached our destination, we saw a barn abandoned during construction. According to Chris, it was for growing grapes, but they soon realized the soil wasn’t suited for it. Chris played a prank on us saying that if you knocked on the door you’d hear a ghost answer. So he knocked on the imaginary door and we heard the ghost answer. Everyone was scared beside me because I knew it was a student who made the noise. At one section of the trail, we had to go down a slippery and steep slope and most of us struggled to get down, slipping and tripping on the way down. When it was Codio’s turn we took out our phones to record him as he slipped multiple times, making us all laugh. When it was time to go back to the top of the trail, Chris took us on a different path up which made me wonder why we used that way to get down.
We were then split into groups. I was put into a group with my brother, which I was grateful for because we worked well together. The group’s task was to close the trail again because previous hikers had pulled out the plants we planted. We got thorn bushes, logs, rocks, and anything we could find to help close the trail. After working for a few hours, we gathered around the barn for lunch. We were eating Subway sandwiches and drinking water when it started raining. When we finished eating, we got back to working and the other group did the same until we met in the middle. When we were done, we gathered the tools together and did our tool count. After the count, we headed up again on the trail and gathered to talk about what we did and learned for the day. We then got on the bus and headed back to the school, ending our trip to the LaTourette Park.