On Earth Day 2019, the WeLoveU chapters in North New Jersey mustered up volunteers at the Ridgefield Nature Center. The environmental project launching in Ridgefield, New Jersey took Earth Day to another level as the project lasted several days. Earth Week? Almost! The group previously worked with Ridgefield when more than 150 volunteers cleaned along Wolf Creek.
For over a decade, the Ridgefield Nature Center has been closed to the public because of the lack of proper maintenance. It even reached the point of being deemed as the “dead forest.” Vines grew exponentially, leaving many trees dead. That’s why part of the project involves picking up dead branches in order to make wood chips to lay on the walkways. Hundreds of tree lumber on the ground and vines overtaking the nature center is why it is now called the “dead forest.”
The International WeLoveU Foundation East Coast Region took notice of the Ridgefield Nature Center’s condition and asked about making this once-forgotten center the town’s re-connection to nature. What better day to create change than on Earth Day? On April 22, 24 and 25, approximately 120 volunteers took action at the Ridgefield Nature Center.
Every morning, 40 volunteers gathered at the Ridgefield Community Center, located right next to the center. At that time WeLoveU volunteers, workers from the DPW and Recycling Coordinator Millie Rojas discussed the plan for the respective day. It was an exciting and productive week for WeLoveU and the Ridgefield Community.
“The job that they [WeLoveU] do, they work together as a team, and they help one another. You see one carrying a log, before you know it, there’s like five people carrying the same log. The love you see is incredible,” says Millie Rojas, Recycling Coordinator. “If there were more people like the Chairperson [of WeLoveU], our world would be different today.”
The Nature Center’s Background Story
The Ridgefield Nature Center was previously owned by a water delivery company called the Great Bear. In 1975, ownership of the center changed to the hands of the town borough. After that time, the center was opened to the public once a week on Saturday’s. Eventually, it became a desolate space and restricted property surrounded by a fence to keep trespassers out.
For decades, the 5.4-acre land remained isolated until WeLoveU sought to revitalize it completely.
“It means a lot to me and it’s going to mean a lot to the community,” said Superintendent of Public Works Joe Greco when asked what this project means to him and the community. “Since it has been closed for a couple years, now it’s going to be reopening and accessible.”
WeLoveU volunteers completed phase one of the revitalization project by working diligently for four hours a day for three days. They removed decaying wood and laid down logs and wood chips for the outlined path. Though significant progress has been made, there is much more to do.
“The work that they [WeLoveU] did in three days would probably take me about six months. Phenomenal job,” said Joe Greco.
Projects are underway for WeLoveU to continue revitalizing the Ridgefield Nature Center. However, not without help. The project will call for help from local residents, business owners, students and public servants. Everyone and anyone has an opportunity to help reopen the Ridgefield Nature Center with WeLoveU.
The main goal of the project is to completely transform the nature center into a county attraction for families, students and locals. WeLoveU hopes it will be a place for promoting the importance of ecosystems, environmental education, appreciation for nature, and inspire others to combat climate change.