Monday, May 3, 2010

Resurrection Tour

What’s the riverfront like in your town? Can you get to it? Why or why not?

The 3rd – 6th graders of South Church, in Dobbs Ferry, talked about these questions last Sunday morning before leaving on an Eastertide/Earth Day field trip called Resurrection Tour. Our quest was to see if new life could happen out of environmental degradation.

My family’s VW was the sweep in the five-car caravan. First stop: Anaconda Wire and Cable. We parked at the Hastings train station, climbed to the overpass and looked down on the football field of gray cement along the river. It was the remains of the factory that had dumped oil and solvents into the river for decades. The buildings were demolished earlier this year; the first step in containing the contaminants.

We drove south into Yonkers and stopped in the parking lot of the Greyston Bakery. “This bakery, run by Buddhists, hires people who have a hard time getting jobs—those who have been in prison, or are homeless, for instance,” said Mark, an environmental lawyer and one of the leaders of Resurrection Tour.

Next stop: Beczak Environmental Education Center, two run-down, riverfront blocks south. We walked through its lush green park and stood on a small bridge spanning a tidal marsh. Kalle and Ben jumped on rocks at the river’s edge; Sasha and Armand got their feet wet. Bob Walters, one of the founding board members of the Center, met us and told how regular people—fishermen, factory workers—had the vision to turn this old Navy Militia Site and former factory social club into a park and environmental center. The man-made tidal marsh—home to many creatures—was build with funds from a lawsuit against the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for an oil spill.

Our final stop was Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Science Barge, where Bob Walters serves as Director. This floating urban farm grows tomatoes, squash and other foods in water, not earth. The Barge shifted on the wake of a powerboat. Children peered into the cisterns filling with fresh rainwater. “We give our produce to the Franciscans for their soup kitchen,” said Bob. “And, we’re working with the homeless on creating a community garden for them.”

On the way home Claudia, an environmental psychologist and one of the Resurrection Tour leaders, asked the children in her car what they remembered from the morning. “The Anaconda fire and soon-to-be remediation, Greystone hiring formerly incarcerated, Beczak marsh, hydroponics.”