Volunteers spread wood chips at the Quarry Ball Fields Park, on E. 181st Street between Hughes Avenue and Quarry Road, as part of a citywide parks cleanup.
Park-lovers across the city got their hands dirty on Saturday to commemorate It's My Park Day, an annual service day sponsored by Partnerships for Parks, where volunteers across the five boroughs pitch in to clean up and beautify their local green spaces.
The students are members of SoBro's Community Justice Project, and have been working since last fall to adopt and renovate the 5-acre ball fields. The group won a $2,500 grant this month from the children's television channel Nickelodeon as part of the station's Big Green Grant Program.
The SoBro students began their efforts last year after petitioning for signatures (even scoring Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr.'s) and presenting their plans to Community Board 6 to elicit their support.
This month, the kids were invited to meet with Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte, where they presented their research--they took soil samples at the park to see what plants and grass would grow best there--and to ask for the Parks Department's help in making their plans happen.
"We were all nervous, because he's such an important person," said 6th-grader Natalie Mendez.
The meeting went well, according to Community Justice Project director Eva Lopez.
"I think now what we have is some real buzz with the Parks Department," she said.
"We haven't really been in the park because of the dirt and the rocks," said student Sterling Stuckey, who remembers the fields once being a lush, grassier green--back when her school, PS/MS 3, which is just down the road, used the park for field day. Now, students have field day in the school's playground, which Stuckey says is too small and "boring."
The work they started on It's My Park Day is just the beginning, the students said. They hope to use some of the Nickelodeon money to buy more paint supplies for a mural and to plant some trees in the park.
"Right now, I think it looks a lot better," Mendez said. "But we still have a lot of work to do."