Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com
Across Boston and in neighboring towns, teens from Boston Natural Areas Network’s Youth Conservation Corps have worked this summer to make improvements in parks and natural areas.
On Aug. 16, as the program came to its end, members of the East Boston crew led a tour of improvements they had made to the East Boston Greenway and discussed their work at the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation and Revere Beach.
“We … want these kids to appreciate nature and to want to protect it,” said Geoffrey Wood, who manages the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and works with the Youth Conservation Corps one day a week.
“I’m impressed with what Boston Natural Areas Network has been able to do with having kids come down and do these jobs,” he said.
Wood praised the students’ work in cleaning up such areas as the Palermo Street edge of the marsh, where he said people have been dumping trash for well over a century.
“We were beautifying a section of East Boston that started off years ago as a really ugly place,” he said. “You can track the inventions of the past couple hundred years by just looking to see what’s dumped there.”
The students spent their days picking up trash, pulling up weeds, and putting down mulch, but also working on art projects to help teach others about the natural environment and the ways that humans pollute it. One project took them to Revere Beach to gather discarded smoking materials.
“We were outside for just 15 minutes, and nine of us collected over 1,100 cigarette butts,” said East Boston resident Jenna Bocchino, 16. “Now every time I’m out and I see a cigarette butt, I want to go pick it up, and I’m like, ‘Umm, no.’”
Chris Marchi, an East Boston activist who led Youth Conservation Corps teams in 2011 and 2012, was impressed with the teens’ work on a daylily bed that had been overrun with aggressive weeds, including Virginia creeper and mugwort.
“Two or three years ago … you couldn’t really see the daylilies,” Marchi said. “I didn’t think it could be done, honestly.”
He said the mugwort was particularly difficult to deal with because its roots could stretch 20, 30, even 40 feet away from its center.
“It was basically choking the life out of the lilies,” Marchi said.
Candice Cook, program manager for the Boston Natural Areas Network, said the cleanup of the daylily bed was instrumental in helping the Friends of the East Boston Greenway to recently win the first Community Beautification Service Award as part of the Mayor’s Annual Garden Contest.
Judges visited the Greenway just days after work on the bed was completed, she said.
For a gallery of photos from the tour, click here.