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Volunteering with NYC Parks & Rec.

When a work opportunity presented itself to volunteer with NYC Department of Parks and Rec, I was ON IT. We were given three options and the first one was only two days away. Luckily, the weather forecast looked beautiful and the location wasn’t far from home so it all couldn’t have worked out any better 🙂

I spend a lot of time in NYC Parks as my apartment is situated between Riverside Park and Central Park and I happen to enjoy an activity that takes me to both multiple times a week (I wonder what that could be…).

Inwood Hill Park

Inwood, Manhattan NY

Inwood is a neighborhood at the upper tip of Manhattan and not one I’m familiar with so I was excited to head uptown to a new-to-me park, Inwood Hill (so appropriately named IMO), to volunteer my time and play in the dirt with my colleagues.

It was a perfect sunny day with temps in the low 60s so jeans, a sweatshirt, and my gardening gloves were perfect for keeping me comfortable and poison-ivy free.

I arrived by 9am and met up with our NYC Parks Dept. “handlers” for the day, Joe and Leslie. While we waited for other colleagues to arrive, Joe and Leslie explained how the morning would work and what we would be doing to prep Inwood Hill Park for the spring/summer season.

The task for the day? Getting rid of the super invasive plant, garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is not native to NYC (it is European) and can be found throughout the United States invading grassy areas and destroying native plants quickly. Because garlic mustard is self-fertile, it is quite difficult to completely eradicate once it is established in a certain area. Joe and Leslie explained that this seems to be a particularly bad year for garlic mustard plants in NYC for any number of reasons, one possibly being the warm winter we experienced (I don’t recall being warm this winter but I cocoon myself in a fleece blanket when it’s 70 degrees out so…).

We walked through Inwood Hill Park, identifying areas where the garlic mustard growth was particularly bad. At each spot, we spent time pulling out the garlic mustard plants from the root as that is the only way to ensure that the garlic mustard plant will not come back. I was really glad that the garlic mustard plant was so easy to recognize because my biggest fear for the day was that I wouldn’t be able to discern what was an invasive plant and that I’d be pulling out good plants. I have no green thumb to speak of (I couldn’t tell you what my flowers are for my wedding except to say that they’re a mix of different oranges, corals, and pinks and are apparently local and seasonal in upstate NY in September) so needless to say, my fear was warranted.

As we weeded and walked around, Joe and Leslie made sure to point out any poison ivy so we could be extra careful and gave us tips on how to spot poison ivy ourselves. They also stopped to show us other interesting plants and share fun little tidbits of information that I can’t even imagine having enough room in my brain to store. Leslie pointed out one plant, commonly referred to as a “Touch-Me-Not,” that is a natural antidote to poison ivy. I’ll never forget these plants because her follow-up comment was that she didn’t know why they were called “touch-me-nots” because she thinks “touch-me-please” seems more apropos.

By midday I was starving (note to self: next time, bring snacks) and happy to be heading home to make myself a big ol’ lunch. I’m quite thankful to live in this city and even more thankful to be able to help out and spend a day enjoying one of NYC’s parks in a way that isn’t just running through them.

Alright alright, I like running through them too.

For more than just the post-run pizza. Sometimes.

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Next up: Brooklyn Half-Marathon! See you Saturday 🙂

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