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Blue Heron Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, June 25, 2004

FIRST ANNUAL RCC AWARDS CEREMONY SPARKS CAMARADERIE


This year, 140 New York City students opted to spend their precious afterschool hours exploring nature. On Monday, June 21, many of these students, all participants in Parks & Recreation’s Ranger Conservation Corps (RCC), run by the Urban Park Rangers, gathered in the Central Park Arsenal to celebrate their achievements. The program, which began in 2000, provides urban environmental internships for students in grades 7 through 12 in all five boroughs. The first annual RCC Awards Ceremony provided these students with a unique opportunity to come together and compare notes.

The students in attendance presented their work to an audience of peers, parents, and Parks & Recreation officials, including Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Urban Park Ranger Director Sara Hobel. Each group created a display describing the results of their research. Highlights included the Staten Island group’s trail guide to Blue Heron Park, complete with special activities for children. This trail guide, which aims to make Blue Heron Park a more accessible and fun place for kids of all ages, won grants from the South Shore Rotary Club and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.

The Bronx group’s research along the Bronx River in Crotona Park is being used along with findings from 15 other sites to monitor the water quality of the river. The same group’s findings on the fish population at Indian Lake have been used by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Central Park’s students spent their afterschool hours monitoring the suitability of the Harlem Meer ecosystem as a habitat for local bats. These projects make it clear that RCC students really can make a difference in preserving our city’s natural resources.

"The Ranger Conservation Corps makes learning science effortless, as students in RCC forget they are studying when they’re outside," Commissioner Benepe said as he congratulated the students on their achievements.

Naturally, the RCC students enjoyed themselves at the awards ceremony. Spirits were high and cheers were loud as students from all the boroughs saw what the others were doing for the first time. "The kids were really into it," said RCC Coordinator Anthony Archino. "It was so cool to see them come together for the first time and share the results of their work."

Every participant in the RCC was presented with a certificate honoring their environmental and community service, and a few students earned Future Ecologist Awards for their outstanding involvement and independent research. High school senior Neel Patel and eighth grader Michael Dalmito were honored for work which most definitely went above and beyond the call of duty. Patel, who has been involved in the RCC for three-and-a-half years, earned a $1,000 scholarship for his water quality research at Oakland Lake in Queens.

The results of the RCC program will surely be long-lasting, both for New York City’s parks and the students. Summing up the importance of the evening, Commissioner Benepe remarked, "Children who grow up learning about the beauty and importance of natural areas will become adults who help to protect them."

Written by Rebecca Silverstein

Quotation for the Day

"If we had paid no more attention to our plants than we have to ourchildren, we would now be living in a jungle of weed."

Luther Burbank, horticulturist
(1849-1926)

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