By Rich Bockmann
The Friends of Brookville Park employed some dirty techniques Saturday to teach neighborhood youngsters the value of being active stewards of their open spaces in honor of Earth Week.
Children gathered in the park to play in a bouncy castle, decorate owl-shaped masks and adorn some miniature pots into which they planted their own rye grass seeds.
“They’re learning about Earth Week,” said Sharif Ellis, of the city Parks Department. “They’re having fun while getting their hands dirty and watching nature grow.”
Volunteers spent their morning giving the park a face-lift by cleaning up refuse and painting the benches near Brookville Boulevard and 147th Avenue.
State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) stopped by and said she thought it was a great way to instill environmental- and community-minded values in the youth.
“I think it’s healthy,” she said. “We train young people that they have a duty to their community. This is where it all starts.”
Kangela Moore, president of the Friends of Brookville Park, said about 75 volunteers spent the morning getting the park ready for a season full of events, which started in the afternoon with the group’s first Spring Festival.
Simone Brown, the parent coordinator at PS 181, on the western side of the park, brought about five students with her to help with the cleanup.
“It’s my gift back to the community. For me, personally, I want my daughter to know how important it is to do service in your community. It’s a great example for her,” she said. “What children see you do, they will do eventually.”
Marlon Goldson brought his three young children to enjoy the day’s festivities, though rounding them up to gauge their excitement was easier said than done.
“As long as the kids are having fun, I’m happy,” he said.
Gabriel Rivera, a member of the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers, said he felt a duty to set a positive example for his peers.
“I just wanted to help with the community and show people my age are more involved,” the 17-year-old said.
The Friends of Brookville Park got its start in 2008, when community members decided to clear out some dead tree branches in an attempt to halt a rash of violent incidents going on at the time. Moore said holding events in the park not only encourages people to enjoy their open space, but also helps to prevent crime.
“You get people out from the community so everyone knows who’s who,” she explained.
The friends group plans to host It’s My Park! Day May 19, and beginning the first week in July it will present Arts & Crafts Tuesdays every other week until Aug. 14, when the community’s artwork will be displayed throughout the park.
“It’s going to be like our own outdoor art gallery,” she said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.