New twist on spring break

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:27

Students get to work helping get park ready for the season, SWARTSWOOD — On the Monday morning of spring break for Sussex County teens, while most high school students were sleeping in, a group of students involved in Pass It Along from four area high schools met at Swartswood State Park to get the park ready for their most active season. Twenty-four students came from Vernon, High Point, Sparta and Pope John High Schools to join the limited park staff to plant trees, clean group camp sites, the beach and even relocated hundreds of heavy rocks. All this work and more was completed in three and a half days by these dedicated and hard working youths. With the state of the economy, cut backs have taken a toll on the year round and seasonal staff at every park in New Jersey. “The help could not have come at a better time as there is always so much to do at the beginning of the season,” said Blanca Chevrestt, superintendent of Swartswood park. The park is taken care of by three men year-round and the work completed by the teens put the men ahead of schedule for the season. “The volunteers have helped us with so much that we have been trying to do” Blanca said. The work that was completed included planting 100 saplings and 20 large trees, relocating about a ton of rocks, cleaning and clearing of the grounds around the boat house, beach and campgrounds and various other plantings. The park also had the teens plant a tree nursery with the remaining saplings to save for future use. “Through the sweat, sunburn and calluses we learned that our world is a beautiful place and we must respect it and treat it that way,” said Sarah Munley of Vernon about the week. “This is my first time here at Swartswood, but now that we have experienced the park from this level I know I will be back!” (See Sarah’s letter on page 12.) This is the first year Pass It Along and the state parks have been able to work with each other at this level, but the partnership will continue to grow. “It was such an inspiration to see young adults donating their time for a great cause and choosing to spend their break helping us make much needed improvements for others to enjoy,” Chevrestt said. “This dedicated group performed at least $17,000 worth of manual labor for the New Jersey State Parks Department. Can you imagine if there more organizations like this?” Participants included: Vernon High School Students: Sarah Munley Sarah Laffend Ashley Tucker Quincey Lewinson Ally Bicskei Pope John High School: Olivia Cass Adam Langjahr John Lodge Julia Boyer Chris Bello Steve D’Angeli High Point High School: Liza Cotter Sussex Middle School: Nicole Helewa