August 20, 2o19 | Kristine Manganelli, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Somerset County
The 2019 4-H/Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health project has come to an exciting end. On August 3 students unveiled Mariposa Park during a grand re-opening celebration with food, crafts, face painting, balloon tying, and live monarch butterflies.
For the past year SACH shaped plans to create positive change in Bound Brook, New Jersey through a park revitalization and beautification project. One of the first steps involved the students petitioning to rename the park “Mariposa Park” (Spanish for butterfly) to symbolize the transformation of the park from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.
SACH partnered with a newly formed Community Garden Committee to revive the neglected park that had become an unused space in the neighborhood. By adding art murals, crosswalks, a free library with books in English and Spanish, landscaping, picnic tables, grilling space, and an educational seating area, students believe the area will thrive again.
As work began this summer, a local resident asked, “Why are you choosing this park? Nobody cares about this place.” For many years it seemed no one was willing to devote time or resources to the neighborhood. The students hope that these changes will show that fellow residents and local government officials value the community.
To encourage the community to visit once again, the students created a Storybook Trail that will be installed in twelve locations throughout downtown Bound Brook, leading to Mariposa Park. The story was written and illustrated by the students and highlights the park’s theme of transformation as it traces the journey of a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly. In each location a podium will display a page of the story in English and Spanish.
In addition, the students invited local artists to design butterfly sculptures and enlisted local businesses to sponsor these art installations. A live painting event featuring the artists was held at the Bound Brook Food Truck Festival in July. Each butterfly will be paired with a Storybook Trail podium along a mile long trail to promote healthy movement and the joy of reading.
SACH hopes that the space will be used for educational purposes, and held an inaugural class on July 29 when they hosted a rock painting and outdoor yoga class that was well-attended by neighborhood children.
The grand re-opening concluded with an unveiling of the completed butterfly sculptures. Mariposa Park received a warm welcome from the local community as around 100 guests joined SACH for this event, including Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen and members of the town council. Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher was also in attendance and shared words of appreciation with the students when he declared that the work they accomplished was “magic” for the community.