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Park People

Sophia Isako Wong

Zone Volunteers at Brooklyn Bridge Park have a significant role in helping park gardeners with their horticulture tasks and ground maintenance. They volunteer on a weekly basis, usually for 2-4 hours on weekdays. In this post, we introduce Sophia Isako Wong, a dedicated Zone Volunteer!

Tell us about you. What do you do when you’re not in the park?

These days I’m mostly taking care of toddlers, brushing dogs for friends, making art, gardening, and learning to sing Gregorian chant.

Photo courtesy of Sophia Isako Wong

Please describe what you do in the park.

I assist [BBP Gardener] Kristin West with weeding, fencing, transplanting, pruning, mulching, and other tasks. Kristin is responsible for maintaining Zone 1, which is near Pier 1 and includes the grounds around the Environmental Education Center at 99 Plymouth.

What piqued your interest in becoming a Zone Volunteer at Brooklyn Bridge Park?

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in a house with a backyard and a big vegetable garden. After 21 years living in NYC apartments, I yearned for the smell of grass and the feel of dirt between my fingers. I saw the Conservancy was looking for volunteers so I signed up for the volunteer orientation, and immediately felt comfortable with the staff in charge of volunteers.

What’s a highlight moment you’ve had while volunteering in the park?

I enjoyed helping to un-pot Panicum and digging holes to plant them at regular intervals. Panicum is the scientific name for a type of long grass. It was fun to learn to distinguish between two different types of Panicum. I look forward to visiting the grasses I planted in the park this coming summer, to see how they’re doing.

What’s an interesting fact you’ve learned about Brooklyn or the park that you like to share with others?

Near the pirate ship playground, there are some bushes with reddish-purple berries. These berries are called June berries because they ripen in June. They are edible, not too sweet, and delicious!

What do you like about the park?

I like being outdoors where I can be surprised by works of public art, encounter visitors to our city, and observe children and seniors having a good time with their families, dogs and friends. I like spending time in a shared community space where people come to relax.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience in the park or the people you’ve met here?

At first I wasn’t sure what to expect in becoming a Zone Volunteer. Some of my friends thought it was strange of me to want to pull out weeds without pay in my free time. The wonderful thing about volunteering in the park is that I learn new things from my gardening mentor, Kristin, almost every week. I have become more confident with weeding, pruning and mulching. Now I can help friends with their gardens, and it gets me outdoors even in cold weather. Gardening is also a great way to exercise without getting bored.

We look forward to working with Sophia and additional Zone Volunteers in 2017. If you are interested in becoming a Zone Volunteer, please submit the Conservancy’s Volunteer Application.

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