Help is on the way for park lands ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.
The Student Conservation Association is mounting a largescale, collaborative, youth-fueled recovery program to repair storm-damaged public lands throughout the New York-New Jersey area. SCA restoration teams will address urgent ecological needs at a range of sites, from national parks to local waterfronts, employing the organization’s considerable institutional experience and expertise. Current plans call for the engagement of more than 200 primarily local youth and young adults this spring and summer and as many as 1,000 students over the next three years.
Sandy’s environmental damage is substantial. In addition to damaging historic structures, visitor centers and park oﬃces, the storm destroyed wildlife habitats, dumped tons of sand and debris, and wiped out trails and campgrounds. “Our immediate objective is to help ready these parks for the summer season,” states SCA Director of Program Innovation Laura Herrin. “This region has proven its resilience time and again and our young people here are ready to do whatever it takes.”
Among the largest projects, SCA is partnering with The National Parks of New York Harbor to coordinate a comprehensive youth engagement effort at Gateway National Recreation Area, one of the region’s hardest hit sites. SCA will remove massive piles of wreckage, uprooted trees and beach sand. In addition, members will conduct environmental impact studies, reforest and replant washed out areas, restore damaged habitats and coordinate other volunteer groups. SCA is reaching out to potential partners including the Jamaica Bay Conservation Corps and The Corps Network to add hands and speed to the recovery effort.
An SCA advance team will soon assess Gateway’s Jamaica Bay and Staten Island units and work with park managers to develop a restoration plan for refuge islands, Jacob Riis Park, Fort Wadsworth, Miller Field and more. “These sites are rich in heritage and personal meaning for the people of New York-New Jersey,” notes Herrin. “As we help these landmarks heal and restore public access to them, local residents may visit to aid their own healing process.”
Past Experience Provides Big Boost
SCA’s own history has come into play at The National Parks of New York Harbor. Giles Parker, the chief of staff, began his park career as an SCA intern in 1994. Carol Whipple, on assignment at New York Harbor from the NPS Denver operations center, is an alumna. Tim Hudson, Gateway’s newly appointed hurricane recovery coordinator, worked with SCA 25 years ago when he was chief of maintenance at Yellowstone and SCA conducted a far-reaching wildfire recovery project. More recently, SCA led ﬂood-restoration efforts at Mount Rainier National Park and assisted in the Gulf oil spill environmental response.
Part of the SCA response at Gateway will be a special team funded by American Eagle Outfitters. “We’re very excited to support the National Parks of New York Harbor because we know the need there is so critical,” says American Eagle Outfitters Foundation Director Marcie Eberhart.
Other SCA volunteers will continue to aid Hudson River Park, an estuarine sanctuary on Manhattan’s west side that was battered by Sandy. An additional SCA team will restore portions of Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey. Still other SCA crews will serve in New Jersey state parks, including Cheesquake and Voorhees, where SCA earlier volunteers assisted in the initial storm clean-up.
Beyond specific recovery projects, SCA members will conduct public outreach and provide environmental education throughout the restoration effort, relying on social media to tap into recreational, birding and other networks.