Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

The Daily Plant : Thursday, February 28, 2002


First envisioned in 1910 by writer/philosopher William James, the Cooperation for National Service was created to provide opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to engage in service that addresses the nation’s educational, public safety, environmental, and other human needs. In the mid-Sixties, following the lead of his predecessor, President Lyndon B. Johnson brought the concept of the Peace Corps home by creating VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), a National Teacher Corps, the Job Corps, and University Year of Action—organizations that would eventually be brought together under the AmeriCorps program under the Clinton Administration.

The Parks family gave a warm welcome to volunteers in this program eight years ago when the Urban Park Rangers entered into an agreement with the Cooperation for National Service and the Americorps program. The agreement laid out a partnership between Parks and Americorps where a grant would be given to Parks in exchange for the agency taking on 19 AmeriCorps volunteers per year. Under the tutelage of the Urban Park Rangers, these volunteers work 1,700 hours over the course of the year either in nature centers or on an Urban Park Rangers restoration team. In the past, some of these volunteers have stayed on to become official Parkies not only with the Rangers, but also in City Parks Foundation and other branches or affiliates of Parks.

Nature Centers serve as in-park community centers for public education, recreational activities and environmental studies. The centers are starting points for walking tours and workshop sites for educational programs. At these centers, many of the AmeriCorps volunteers serve the Rangers on a myriad of programs. They help to run the RCC (Ranger Conservation Corps), an after-school program built to educate high school students about environmental restoration. Leading this program requires that the AmeriCorps volunteers teach program courses, recruit students, and build relationships with various Parks affiliates (like the Central Park Conservancy). They also help with outreach programs to neighborhood and parks groups. The outreach program brings community members into the Parks family through a series of educative and instructive courses. In addition, AmeriCorps volunteers staff information tables at the nature centers, help at special events, and lead educational programs with the Rangers on weekends and weekdays.

Assisting on the Urban Park Rangers Restoration Project, seven volunteers serve at six parks throughout the emerald empire. One is at Inwood Park in northern Manhattan where volunteers are helping to restore two meadows with the intent of boosting bee and wasp populations. Another site is in Central Park, where a project started by the Conservancy in 1994 to expand the Butterfly Meadow at 102nd Street and Dead Road, will be dovetailed by the volunteers. At two sites in the Bronx’s Van Cortland Park, AmeriCorps volunteers are serving to maintain a meadow from overgrowth and doing basic trail maintenance. At Brooklyn’s Marine Park, volunteers are enhancing a freshwater vernal pond with the intent of attracting the native amphibian populations back to the area and increasing the dragonfly presence. Improvements are on-going in Staten Island’s Blue Heron Park, where stream bank improvements are helping to promote a fish breeding habitat. Forest Park’s Blue Trail is also benefiting from AmeriCorps service as rustic cedar fences are installed along the entire trail. Each of the above sites has been assigned one or two AmeriCorps volunteers, who in addition to working hard in the field are responsible for researching bulbs, trees, grasses, ferns, shrubs and herbaceous plants for spring planting, performing required surveys (vegetative, water-quality, soil testing, and wildlife monitoring), and creating long and short term management plans for the site.

With President Bush’s recent call to arms for an increase in funding for programs like AmeriCorps, it is important to give back to local communities and parks. Parks is incredibly proud and grateful to have a group of dedicated individuals working for a common good. As their year with the Urban Park Rangers winds down, there is hope that many of these ambitious volunteers will permanently join our Parks.

By Jeffrey Sandgrund


Parks congratulates Keisha Simmons, 5-Boro Operations, on her new baby boy, Amon. Keisha had her baby at 3:27am on February 27, 2002. The baby is 7lbs. 2oz. Keisha has been with Parks since October 1, 1990. We wish her many happy late nights ahead.


"Opportunities multiply as they are seized."

Sun Tzu

(500-320 B.C.)

Directions to Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

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