Van Cortlandt Park

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Green Youth Assist Management Of Van Cortlandt Park: Collecting And Anazlyzing Critical Data

Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy’s Green Jobs for Youth program connects Bronx community high school students to nature through the park’s natural areas and gardens and an environmental science course at Lehman College. These opportunities eventually help them determine their perspective on park stewardship. Second- and third-year participants are invited back to be co-leaders with Conservancy staff to collect GPS information to add to the park’s GIS data base, further enhancing their environmental awareness through technology, and possibly creating the Parkies of the future.

As Green Jobs for Youth wound down its third summer, the teens presented their latest projects to Van Cortlandt Park Administrator Margot Perron, Con Edison Manager Evelyn Oliver, and professors from Lehman and LaGuardia Colleges. Throughout the summer, students collected data and entered it into the GIS data base to help guide the management of VCP’s natural resources in the park under the guidance of the park’s restoration and GIS specialist, Forester Alex Smith. Three projects bring critical data that otherwise would not have been collected.

The students responded to the park’s two year master planning process by assisting in the mapping of trails and placement of trail signage, a concern heard often during master plan community meetings. As in all parks, visitors want to know where they are, what to visit, and how to get there. Second-year GIS students Walker Stevens and Ian Kenyon worked with Trails Crew Chief Bradley Pazian to map the trail intersections in the Northwest Woods, then created prototypes for signs for 5-Boro Shops to create and be installed by Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy's Cross Country Trail crew this fall.

Ian and Walker also presented an important canopy gap study. The past few years’ intense storms have created over 300 large canopy gaps in the park’s 553 Forever Wild acreage. These gaps, flooded with sunlight, quickly became invaded by vines. The students assisted in GPS data collection from the gaps that will be used to create a high priority management strategy before the invasives become entrenched.

First-year GIS students Sandra Cruz and David Crespo presented their work identifying, measuring and mapping all the street trees and landscape trees in the park. These particular trees experience not only storm stress but also stresses from cramped, compacted roots, sweltering sun, ozone particulate matter, and winter salt for de-icing sidewalks. Data from this inventory will be useful in future planning to determine which trees are more resilient, and give future managers more information for landscape planning.

When they are not collecting data or studying in Lehman lecture halls, Green Jobs for Youth participants are apprenticing with our horticulturists, trail builders, and forest restoration specialists. Together we are cultivating green careers and awareness for young people to be the next generation in our own positions.

Submitted by Margot Perron, Van Cortlandt Park Administrator


“In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind”

Louis Pasteur

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