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Local youth help expand Neponset River trail behind Ryan Playground

Posted by Patrick Rosso  August 21, 2012 02:18 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

In Video: Local youth lead DCR and BNAN officals on a tour of the Neponset River, showing off the improvements they made to the trails over the summer.

Armed with shovels, wheelbarrows and a wood chipper, local youth are making sure that residents have more space to enjoy the Neponset River.

The group of 12 high school-age youth from Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan and Milton were part of the Boston Natural Areas Network’s Youth Conservation Crew and have been working over the summer clearing brush, cleaning trails and building access points to the Neponset River Trail that runs behind the Ryan Playground in Mattapan.

The work expanded and imporved the mostly unknown network of trails behind the River Street playground, opening up a community space that was often overlooked.

“When we first got out here there was barely a path,” said Jonathan Pierre, 15, of Milton. “It was a lot of work we had to sweat and put in a 100-percent, but I feel good about what I’m doing and helping my neighborhood.”

The crew of boys and girls is managed by the Boston Natural Areas Network with financial support from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the city of Boston, in addition to other program supporters.

“I just like being outdoors, who wants to spend their summer stuck in a cubicle,” said Nery Sanchez-Roman, 16, a Hyde Park resident who was spending his second summer with the crew. “I want to see change happen in my neighborhood. I believe that our community spaces hold the key to less violence and sketchy behavior.”

Many of the youth who were working on the Neponset Monday afternoon felt the same way. The gig is a paid job, with the students working 25-hour weeks at minimum wage.

“I like working, especially with people my age,” said Katrina Ramkissoon, 15, of Milton. “It’s physical and tiring but it’s also satisfying to know what I’m doing is helping out. It’s nice to see the difference you can make when you try.”

The summer program, there are also fall and spring YCCs, was coming to a close Monday as the teens wrapped work and showed off what they accomplished to DCR and BNAN staff, who toured the site that afternoon.

“We started the YCC as a way to make a change in certain places that invites people into those spaces,” said Valerie Burns, the president of BNAN who toured the work-site Monday. “It’s about people power and team work.”

The youth led the group along their new trail that brings visitors from the parking lot off River Street right to the Neponset’s edge.

“This is really helping train the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Jack Murray, deputy commissioner of operations for DCR, as he walked along the river. “Our intention is to educate about the importance of maintaining environmental resources and creating enhanced recreational opportunities.”

As the group wound its way around the river, admiring the woodchips that were created by trees cleared out by the crew, many expressed how impressed they were with a trail that before the YCC showed up could barely fit a bicycle.

Although Monday’s tour only lasted about 30-miuntes the work that the youth put in over the summer is sure to last much longer, especially the handmade benches that the students will soon be placing along points on the river.

“I feel like Milton is so green that we should expand it to the city and make everywhere greener and cleaner,” said Ramkissoon. “It’s just better for everyone and something we should all focus on.”

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Darius Wilson, 16, of Dorchester and Jonathan Pierre, 15, of Milton taking care of some over hanging vines.

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