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Youth Conservation Corps cleans up East Boston Greenway

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  August 16, 2011 01:11 PM

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(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

The 2011 Boston Natural Areas Network Youth Conservation Corps’ East Boston Crew walked the East Boston Greenway on Friday to review their work with supporters and family.

If the East Boston Greenway looks particularly nice these days, there are a dozen neighborhood teenagers who deserve the credit.

For the past six weeks, the East Boston Crew of the Boston Natural Areas Network’s Youth Conservation Corps has worked to clean, weed, and improve the path. On Aug. 12, they met one last time to celebrate a successful summer.

The crew worked each day from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., spending Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays at the greenway’s lower edge, between the intersection of Marginal and Bremen streets and the path’s Gove Street entrance. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, they worked at Belle Isle Marsh with staff from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Chris Marchi, the East Boston Crew’s supervisor, said the young people led the process of improving the greenway, from early conceptual decisions through to the hard work of pulling weeds, edging trees, and pruning back bushes.

“The thing we did is we walked out into the neighborhood, and we took our little journals and we started writing down everything that we saw that was good and everything we saw that was bad in the neighborhood,” Marchi said. “We wanted to establish a visioning process for the greenway.”

The corps worked toward a goal of making their sections of the greenway look as tidy and polished as Bremen Street Park, which is professionally managed by the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Before the work began, Marchi said, the density of low branches on many trees along the path made mowing the grass beneath them impossible and created a place where litter and lost baseballs would collect. The low branches and overgrown brush also blocked sight lines, so that walkers often couldn’t see around the next bend, which caused some concerns for safety.

Marchi said that over the course of the summer, the team cleared about 60 piles of brush and 80 bags of vegetative waste from the path.

“The parks department had their hands full just to get rid of the stuff that we were making,” he said. “With all that we did this year, we’re hopeful that in the future it’ll just require to be weed-whipped and a little bit of pruning, which will leave next year’s YCC crew with the opportunity to do a lot of planting.”

Eddie Funes, 15, led the work at the greenway’s southwest edge, near the train caboose, and he recalled a plot of land that was weedy, full of dead leaves, and contained a nest of dangerous yellowjackets.

“When we first started, it was filled with a bunch of weeds, and there was an invasive species in there, and … we had to rake it out, because it had a lot of leaves on the ground, too,” Funes said.

Gianna Celona, 17, led the team that cleared a rhododendron bed just northeast of Maverick Street that was filled with Virginia creeper vines and other invasive species.

“There were thorn vines wrapped around our ankles and all these crazy plants, bees,” Celona recalled. “It was a hard task, but we did it.”

In addition to their work in the field, the teens did outreach around environmental issues through making posters and performing skits for younger children at the East Boston YMCA. Marchi expressed pride in the teens’ hard work and ability to collaborate throughout the summer and their many projects.

“These guys have been great all year long,” he said.

The annual Youth Conservation Corps program is supported by the Paul and Edith Babson Foundation, the City of Boston Youth Fund, the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Copeland Family Foundation, the East Boston Savings Bank, the East Boston Greenway Council, Foundation M, the Green Leaf Foundation, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Neponset River Greenway Council, the Harold Whitworth Pierce Trust, REI, and Individual Donors.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.

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(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

The 2011 Boston Natural Areas Network Youth Conservation Corps’ East Boston Crew. Front row, left to right, Candice Cook, program manager for the Boston Natural Areas Network; Rafaela Risso, 17; Eddie Funes, 15; and Nancy Huang, 16. Back row, Chris Marchi, crew supervisor; Jarrett Etheridge, 17; Victoria Fortes, 17; Daniel Haro, 17; Trina Do, 16; Kimberly Romero, 15; Gianna Celona, 17; Stephanie Romero, 17; Jordan Ng, 16; and Malcolm Brown, 16.

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