By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Kaiden Salisbury wants to show people that they have the power to help their community and truly make a difference.
Saturday, starting at 9:30am, the Cornwall High School senior modeled that altruism for three hours at City of Newburgh’s Downing Park. Salisbury, as part of his quest to attain a Life Badge (rank before Eagle Scout), volunteered at the historic, popular Newburgh locale, lending a huge hand to help clean up and beautify the Park. He was joined by about 12 summer interns from Senator James Skoufis’ office, as well as a host of community volunteers who partnered with Outdoor Promise, the organization that initiated the event, taking place the first Saturday of each month.
“This is a great way to help the community and show them what they are able to do to help out with one of their local parks, keeping it clean, not littering, and picking up trash,” explained Salisbury. “By picking up trash in the Park today, we helped to prevent hazards as well as make the park more attractive to people who come here.”
And plenty of visitors do frequent Downing Park, especially in these trying times, when the outdoors is one of the pivotal “safe spots.” As the activity at the Park started to increase its already popular flow of people traffic, Outdoor Promise joined forces with Friends of Downing Park to configure ways to make it an even more pleasant place to occupy. Seeing that the north east and south east sections (facing Dubois Street) required the most attention and care, that was the focus and where around 40 people could be spotted early Saturday morning hard at work. Half of the crew diligently was painting the Pergola, while the remainder could be seen hard at work, clearing away brush to make the area safe and accessible. One of those volunteers was a summer intern for Skoufis, Washingtonville High School senior, Isabella Blauvelt.
“My Human Rights teacher told me about this summer intern opportunity, and I thought it would be a really good experience; it has been great so far,” said Blauvelt. “Being a part of today’s cleanup is so important for everyone to be joining together; it’s tough times, and if we can make a difference in one place, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Skoufis himself could be spotted in jeans and a tee-shirt, getting his hands dirty, carrying debris to trash receptacles as well as interacting with his interns, doing all he could to be hands-on and assist with making a difference.
“It’s really important that we lend a hand and help out with things like this, especially with us now being in Phase IV here in The Hudson Valley; parks are such a big part of people’s entertainment,” said Skoufis. “We want people to have clean, safe parks, and be able to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family; the interns have been phenomenal so far.”
The hope is not only will the cleanup bring more people to the Park, but also set a precedent for how important it is that everyone becomes a part of making sure it is taken care of in whatever ways are possible.
“Our troop always tells us ‘leave no trace’ when you go to a place, and that idea has always really stuck in my head,” said Salisbury. “It’s just a really nice feeling to do a good deed like this today, and leave the Park cleaner, better than we found it.”
Ronald Zorrilla, CEO of Outdoor Promise sees still other priceless intangibles to the park cleanup initiatives.
“It’s amazing to see all different types of backgrounds of people coming together to help out the parks,” said Zorilla, who along with his wife, is passionate about improving Downing’s appearance as well as other area parks. “Parks are such a precious resource in the community, especially now, more than ever.”
The next Downing Park Cleanup will take place on Saturday, September 5, 2020. Volunteers are always in need and much appreciated. In addition to the Downing beautification, other Newburgh park cleanups are in the works. To learn more, log onto: https://www.downingparknewburgh.org/take-action or email Zorilla at: Ronald@outdoorpromise.org.