County Executive’s Corner: To Build Rockland Pride Through Service

By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

IMG_3167 IMG_3087 20160609_161459 20160609_100038It’s been a long, hot summer and many of our young people spent time lazing at beaches and swimming pools.

Many, but not all. And certainly not the 27 college-aged students who are spending the summer in the Rockland Conservation & Service Corps.

The program is run by the Rockland Youth Bureau under the direction of Kathy Galione. Its motto says it all: “To Build Rockland Pride Through Service.”

These outstanding young people worked on environmental projects that will leave a lasting mark on our communities.

As part of the Rockland Conservation & Service Corps, they learned about environmental conservation. It was hands-on learning – they built hiking trails, mapped storm drains, cleared streams and educated the public about the environment and sustainability.

Some of the work was a lot of fun, like the days that Kimberlyn Burgos and Jake Greenberg walked along the Hudson River implementing a fish advisory program and giving anglers information about the safety of the fish they catch.

But most of the days involved hard work – work that benefits Rockland and gives the participants real-life experience they can build upon as they launch their careers.

The participants became very familiar with our Rockland County parks. Jenna Grossbarth, Ariel Kallenbach, Amanda Kelly, Camryn McGrath, Melissa McCarter and Tim Munzer worked with our Division of Environmental Resources blazing hiking trails, mapping invasive species, monitoring streams and maintaining trails.

Wading into streams to remove blockages probably sounds a lot of fun on a hot summer day. But as Justin Benkovic, Laura Denlinger, Bryan Scott and Lily Wincele will tell you, it’s hard work. Their efforts under the supervision of the Rockland Drainage Agency will help prevent flooding along 80 miles of county streams.

The Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority was also host to student interns as Shailen Girgenti, Samantha Reidy and Joseph Vogel educated residents about recycling and sustainability.

Rockland still has a couple of farms and one of them, Cropsey Farm in New City, is where Mimi Schmidt and Alexander Hershman learned about organic and biodynamic farming this summer.

Allyson Oostdyk and Joshua Tipa spent some time in Sterling Forest, where they created a trail that people will use for years to come for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

And visitors to the popular Trailside Museum and Zoo at Bear Mountain might have seen Niquira Velez maintaining native gardens and installing a fungi garden.

Other members of this year’s Conservation & Service Corps did work with towns and villages within Rockland.

Angela Roppolo, Kaitlynn Connington and Gianni Villegas worked with the village of Haverstraw to provide beautification and environmental education to young people.

Kevin Bedell and Timothy Fjermestad worked in Ramapo and Aisling Crispi and Michelle Trojan in Clarkstown, with both teams focusing on stormwater and GIS mapping.

They couldn’t have done this work without the help and supervision provided by the participating organizations, including the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission, the Palisades Mountain Bike Association, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland and Cropsey Community Farm. Our Rockland agencies including the Solid Waste Management Authority, the Division of Environmental Resources and the Drainage Agency also took part, as did towns and villages, including Ramapo, Clarkstown and the Village of Haverstraw.

All of them helped create a positive learning experience for the young people in the Rockland Conservation & Service Corps this summer.

The participants will give presentations this week on the work they’ve done.

And a former participant in the program will talk to them about how his career evolved. James Ossman, who once unclogged streams and marked trails as part of the Rockland Conservation & Service Corps, is now senior manager of global operations for Etsy.

The people of Rockland are very grateful for the contributions of these young people. We will enjoy the fruits of their labor for a long time to come.

We suspect that they will, too.

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