Before work began, the lot was overgrown and treacherous. “It was, in one word, a mess,” Surdej explains. In time, the park will be close to two acres of trails, benches and a pond.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays off, and it’s been satisfying working on it,” says Andrew Brown, one of the high school interns working on the park.
The park will have “a little trail up the hillside with a bench that overlooks the whole area with a view of the pond,” Surdej describes.
The goal is for the park to “act as a way for residents to disconnect from their lives at home, from the stresses of the world and to just enjoy nature in their own neighborhood,” says Monti.
Eric Stone, the founder/director of The Rewilding School – a nature education program, is another key member of the pocket park effort. He, along with members of his organization, taught the six interns about the various plants on the property, explaining which species are native or invasive and how to identify, care for and remove them.
“We’ve been careful about the environment around us, trying not to impact it too much,” Troy Panek, another John Jay intern, explains. “To build the trail, we’ve just been clearing out some of the plants, ones that are invasive, like Japanese barberry and garlic mustard.”
In addition to the John Jay students’ work, Surdej says there have also been park clean up days, which have received over 40 total volunteers. “We’ve even had kids as young as seven or eight,” he says. “We’ve had politicians, we’ve had town employees, we’ve had people from the community – it’s been a good mix of people and a nice community effort. Many hands make light work.”