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During a normal year, by the time summer arrives, Hudson River Park’s Volunteer Program has hosted close to 1,000 helping hands to support Park Horticulturists, composting efforts and shoreline cleanups. The start of summer 2020 marked a different milestone: in mid-June we welcomed our first volunteers of the year back into the field.

In the months since, with health and safety precautions and in limited numbers, we have invited our Neighborhood Gardener volunteers to resume their weekly efforts, hosted small groups of Green Team volunteers to clean up shorelines and gardens, and participated in virtual volunteer programs with Corporate Members, ViacomCBS and Colgate-Palmolive. We have even welcomed our first 2020 in-Park Corporate Member Volunteer Day with ThankView!

ThankView Volunteers Socially Distanced In Field 2020
The ThankView team at their HRPK Volunteer Day

We are so grateful that our volunteers have been willing to help, granting our team much needed support, and we want to share a closer look at their experience. Read on to learn what HRPK volunteers have been up to, the difference they’re making in the Park, how we’re approaching safety in the field and what some of them have to say about the experience.

This summer, our Neighborhood Gardeners have worked alongside Park Horticulture staff on a weekly basis. Each assigned to a dedicated area of the Park, these volunteers have assisted with ongoing maintenance tasks like weeding, watering and pruning that are instrumental to keeping our gardens green, trim and thriving. Small Green Team groups have joined us on select Saturdays as well, with more targeted projects like painting barriers at Pier 83, cleaning up the soft shoreline at Pier 76 and clearing the Habitat Garden of weeds and debris.

Volunteer labor helps keep the Park looking beautiful and saves the Park money by lowering maintenance costs so funding can go toward other initiatives. This year volunteer support has been especially impactful as our Horticulture staff plays catch-up with a constant nemesis: weeds.

To keep our team safe at the beginning of New York State on Pause in spring, each Park horticulturist worked in the field one day per week. The weeds in the Park did not take a break. Several of the species we find in HRPK undergo multiple life cycles within a season, competing with the plants we intentionally cultivate. Fortunately, in the words of Jen, one of our Neighborhood Gardeners, “picking weeds is actually soothing!” With additional volunteer hands, we’re able to remove weeds like mugwort, nutsedge and bindweed before they go to seed, ensuring they do not spread this season and come back next year — and, of course, making sure our gardens look as gorgeous as ever. 

John Betters Photo Volunteer Blog
HRPK Horticulture Staff and former Volunteer, John Betters

Both Hudson River Park Friends and Trust Horticulture staff have taken great strides to create a safe working environment for our volunteers, and we’ve taken a number of steps to keep both volunteers and staff safe and healthy. To minimize contact, we now require electronic and no-contact sign-ups, waivers and questionnaires. To keep our volunteers safe in the field, we limit the number in each group, practice social distancing during projects, require face masks in the field, provide new gloves for volunteers and clean tools before and after each use.

Interested in lending a hand? Send us an email at [email protected]! We’re always looking to welcome new community members into our family of dedicated HRPK volunteers, and now is the perfect time to get involved. In the weeks ahead, our volunteers will continue clearing weeds and debris, watering and adding finished compost to priority plants and selecting perennial beds. With our Community Compost Program back in action, we need additional volunteer support. Plus, bulb planting around the Park is just around the corner, beginning this month and continuing until December.

We are grateful to our Volunteer Program’s Presenting Sponsor, Citi, and Supporting Sponsors, Colgate-Palmolive and New York Cruise Lines for helping us keep New Yorkers connected with our green space when it’s most needed. And of course, a huge THANK YOU to all of the volunteers who’ve dedicated their time and efforts in the Park this year. We’ll leave you with some of their words about why they love volunteering in HRPK. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be sharing more stories from our volunteers on social media, so stay tuned to our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

Volunteer 2020 victoria kam
Neighborhood Gardener Volunteer, Victoria Kam

Neighborhood Gardener, Victoria, shares why she’s volunteered in the Park since 2016:

“The Park is a great place to learn more about the operations of horticulture and events at a waterfront public park. I’ve met so many wonderful people during volunteer events and always look forward to spending more time outdoors surrounded by plants.”

Neighborhood Gardener, Jen Spiering — who has called the Park her playground since 2006 —  shares moments of camaraderie she’s found in the field:

“I’m trying to learn more about the plants and the Horticulture team is great at explaining things in the garden…it’s a work in progress I guess! I will add that each Tuesday that we are out there at least one runner/walker shouts out a ‘thank you’ and gives a thumbs up!”