School is back in session and thus our Teen Center will be starting up again soon. The teens in Perth Amboy are excited to once again have a safe environment to exercise and socialize. I met with our Summer Camp Counselors in Training (CIT’s) to discuss what Teen Center means for them and what they think we could do to help to continue this program. This group of teens are all in the 13/14 year-old age range, so keeping Teen Center alive is most important for them, as they will be utilizing the Teen Center for several years to come.
Q: How does Teen Center at the Y impact you?
A: 14 year old boy: “I don’t always feel comfortable at home, I feel much better when I am at the Y and able to socialize with my friends, I feel I belong they care about us here”.
A: 13 year old boy: “I was able to meet a great basketball coach at Teen Center who helped me with my basketball skills, I don’t know any place else I could go to get that help for free”.
A: 14 year old girl: “I love to dance, but my parents can’t afford to send me to dance class, I like that I get to learn new things about dance at Teen Center and can practice with my friends.”
Q: What would you be doing on the nights that Teen Center is taking place if it wasn’t available any longer?
A: 14 year old girl: “Probably staying home bored on my computer”.
A: 13 year old boy: “Getting into trouble”.
A: 13 year old boy: “Hanging out on the street”.
Our conversation lead into how we could work together to help keep Teen Center going. The teens were excited to be a part of the process. Our plan is to create a video, developed and created by the teens themselves to share their feeling on Teen Center and how important it is. We plan to use this video on fund raising sites to see if we can raise enough funds to keep this program going. Stay tuned for one amazing video soon!
Twelve months after we began, the Summit Passaic River Park Trail Project is nearing completion. The trail has been mapped by City Engineer Rick Matias and the user-friendly product placed in a wonderful new kiosk at the trailhead and on the City website under the Environment tab. Volunteers have installed a sturdy bench at the trailhead, marked the trail with blazes and positioned stepping stones for surer footing where a brook interrupts the trail.
Later this fall, we will begin to plant the native trees and shrubs selected
by B.W. Bosenberg & Co., Landscape Architects, with input from Betty Ann Kelly, the Union County Environmental Specialist. A rain barrel will be set up which the City will fill, enabling volunteers to water the plantings. Finally, the City will furnish and install a bike rack near the gravel parking area on New Providence Avenue.
Incredibly, fifty-five individuals donated hundreds of hours to this project, including thirty first-time trail volunteers. Volunteer trail workers have become trail enthusiasts, spreading word about our lovely trails. In fact, the improved and more prominent trails are increasingly popular with Summit residents.
One of our most exciting accomplishments was attracting seventy new hikers to guided trail walks led by Jackie Kondel of the Reeves-Reed Arboretum. We are working with other community groups to implement guided hikes on the trails to replicate this success.
In addition to valuable volunteer labor, the original $10,000 grant from the Overlook Medical Center Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative generated over $4,000 of in-kind donations to our project from the City of Summit, B.W. Bosenberg & Co., Union County, Cording Landscape Design, and the Reeves-Reed Arboretum. The project also renewed interest in the trails among local Boy Scouts. Two Summit Scouts are currently at work on more improvements to earn their Eagle Scout awards. These Scouts will be adding another kiosk, stepping stones and more blazes.
The Passaic River trail in Summit is better than ever. Go take a hike!
When my good friend Jonathan Sacks mentioned that he was looking for a service project for the Men’s Club of the Summit JCC, I jumped at the opportunity to enlist this talented group in our trails project. So it came to pass that at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 19, Jonathan led a group of sixteen able bodied men on major trail construction and renovation work at the Passaic River trails in Summit. Armed with
assorted rakes, shovels and wheel barrows, this determined group tackled most of the “heavy lifting” of our project. Over the course of the morning and into the early afternoon they labored, digging out invasive bushes, hauling and installing hundred pound stepping stones, erecting a kiosk and installing a bench. By 1 p.m. work was winding down and most of the group had left. As I finished cleaning up and thanking the last of the volunteers, an incredible thing happened. A minivan pulled up to the gravel parking area and out stepped Brian Deutsch, one of the Summit JCC volunteers, together with his son Jacob aged 7 and daughter Ava who is 9. In the next ten minutes, Matt Cohen, another of the volunteers, arrived with his family to join the Deutsch’s. It turned out that Brian, who lived minutes from the trails but had never used them before, had rounded up his kids and their friends for an impromptu hike. Of course, he also showed off the impressive improvements he had just helped to create.
As Brian explained, “I actually did not know that you could access those trails from Summit. Now that we have discovered these beautiful and serene trails so close to our home, we absolutely plan on using them. They are easy to get to. You can go out and do a twenty minute hike because they are so close, and bring the dog and the family. The trails are manageable for younger kids. It wasn’t too difficult or too steep. The kids loved running ahead of us and we had fun trying to teach them to skip rocks.” Sunday, April 19th was a resounding success for our project. Meaningful work was done by a new set of residents who have become champions of Summit’s wonderful trails, dedicated to improving them and excited to use and share them too!