Car-free day at Crotona Park

Park ranger

If kids only play and participate in sports activities in park – they take little of the park, do not understand what focus is put on city trees – pollution, garbage… – will not take responsibility. They would not realize they are in the park, but just a basketball court. It is important to make these kids understand that they own this park, so they would not litter.” – says Chris Acosta, Urban Park Ranger at Parks & Recreation Department, who I met during the Car-Free Day at Crotona Park in the Bronx.
Today several organizations working on health and environment, including Bronx River Alliance (BxRA), organized information tables in Crotona Park to tell about their services. I am using this and other environmental events in the Bronx that are organized by or in collaboration with BxRA to get a deeper insight into environmental issues and environmental education in the Bronx. Contacts with people and understanding various educational opportunities available for residents will facilitate my research activities with BxRA and its collaborators.

I learned that Crotona Park has several sports facilities that attract people, but there are few opportunities to work with natural objects. I don’t know whether this is a problem of most parks in the Bronx. Probably, local residents would benefit if part of this park was assigned for community garden or other plots where people would more actively engage with nature – through community forestry projects, greenhouses, or other educational facilities or programs. Parks & Recreation, however, does organize “Junior Ranger Dap Camps” for youth in urban parks where they conduct teambuilding activities, Nature Days to explore botany, ecology, and entomology, Adventure Days that include fishing, canoeing, and orienteering, and Conservation Days to restore trails and participate in rehabilitation of wildlife habitats. I wonder which of these activities are more successful in building environmental stewardship in youth.

Among many interesting people, I met with Elaine Feliciano and Penny Matta who are part of restoration crew in BxRA. Later this summer I would like to take part in BxRA restoration activities to learn about the level of participation of youth / local community members in these activities because restoration can also be regarded as environmental education.

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