Volunteers Share Their Thoughts about Freshkills Park

Written by Ingrid Florentino, Volunteer Outreach Intern.

It has been more than 15 years since the Fresh Kills Landfill received the last barge of garbage, and its closure was a victory for the borough of Staten Island. Today, the landfill is in the process of becoming a park and several sections of Freshkills Park are already open to the public. These sections include Schmul Park, Owl Hollow Soccer Fields, and the New Springville Greenway. As NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance continue to build this enormous park, the role of volunteers becomes more and more critical for its successful development.

In 2016, more than 230 volunteers contributed over 1,000 hours of community service during 10 different events in Freshkills Park. These volunteers came from different parts of the New York City region to keep the park’s spaces green and beautiful by mulching, planting, removing invasive species, and participating in shoreline cleanups. Volunteers also assisted during special events, such as Discovery Day, throughout the year.

Volunteering at Freshkills Park goes beyond getting credit for community service hours. Over the years, we have asked our amazing volunteers why they volunteer with Freshkills Park, and this is what some of them have said:

“As part of a goal to learn and explore the natural areas of NYC, I enjoyed volunteering to see the development first hand. I liked contributing to this large scale project, that is set to be a beacon for environmental restoration and amazing public amenity, because I can spread the word and join the others in a historic undertaking.”

“It was exciting to be in the big space that has always been off limits. I enjoyed being part of the redevelopment of the landfill. It is very important for Staten Island to have a park with so many great events and activities because there is not much to do in Staten Island. I want to be able to say in 20 years that I was part of the park.”

“Volunteering at Freshkills Park is a learning experience, instructive for learning about the hard work required for improving and maintaining the city’s parkland, and it’s a learning experience in the great efforts required to bring a spoiled habitat back from severe ecological degradation.”

Volunteers are excited about the existing and future opportunities the Park will provide to the NYC community. They also see volunteering as a chance to learn about the engineering and planning required to give life to a place that was considered a nuisance in the past. On multiple occasions, individuals have told us that they volunteer for the future of their children and grandchildren.

By volunteering, people get to see parts of the park that are currently closed to the general public. They are able to experience the changing landscape firsthand and to feel part of this historic transformation project. Without the help of our great volunteers, many of the events and activities that we host throughout the year would not be possible. We appreciate the time they devote to helping us develop this “beacon for environmental restoration.”

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