MLK Day of Service to take community into great outdoors

Maintenance of Cherry Hill trails open to environmentally-conscious public.

 

Cherry Hill Township’s trails program hit its double-digit anniversary last fall, and there is always work to be done in regard to cleaning, clearing, maintenance and drainage. 

To keep existing pathways free and clear, even during the expected cold, rain, wind and snow of winter, community members are invited to participate in an MLK Day of Service trail event on Saturday, Jan. 18. 

Weather-permitting, volunteers may sign up to work with the Cherry Hill Environmental Board to complete trail work at Croft Farm and other nearby open space lands. 

Ericha Farrington, special events coordinator for the township’s Recreation Department, said the Day of Service had its origins five years ago, when the township wanted to brainstorm different ways to help in the community. 

“We started out with some trail improvements and clean-ups and then we had a portion (of the service opportunity) where we collected items that we donated to different nonprofit organizations,” she said. 

Chairman of the Cherry Hill Environmental Board Lew Gorman, formerly of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a hardy individual who can stand to work outside in most kinds of weather. As such, he encourages all volunteers to do their part to keep active. However, he recognized there are times that outdoor work simply cannot be beneficial.  

“We’ve done this every year since it started except for last year. We’d been out there when (temperatures) were in the 30s, doing some construction work, moving stone and all kinds of stuff. Everybody got warm because they were moving so much. But last year, it got down into the single digits,” Gorman noted. 

“But the trail work, we see there is always need for it, so we keep trying to get more people involved each year.” 

This year, in an effort to get more people involved, Farrington said the service day was moved back in recognition that a certain portion of the population might not have off on MLK Day itself, the following Monday. 

“By shifting this to a weekend, we’re hoping for a larger turnout for then so we can get more accomplished.”

Gorman said there’s a challenge every year to plan different chores for as many people as possible with a wide range of ages and abilities. 

“We know we’re going to usually get families with little kids and then teenagers and maybe even some elderly folks. What I try to do is design a number of projects that can handle 30 people, which are tailored from young to old,” he explained. 

“So I want to have something for everybody to do – which is a challenge because we never know who’s gonna show. Some years we’ve gotten four, sometimes 40. I try to plan for the top number.”

Those who gravitate to Croft Farm can expect to put their backs into their work, which includes land clearing and leveling to aid in drainage and prevent soil runoff from a trail into a nearby lake. Gorman estimated about 10-20 adults could be manning wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels for compost, sand and earth. 

And then, there’s work for the younger crowd.  

“We always need to clean up along Brace Road because we have property on either side. There’s an old set of trails and Croft’s trails where (leaves and debris) all blow off, so there’s a need for that (cleaning) multiple times a year,” he said. 

Farrington stated there are several local businesses, some with a national imprint, which have expressed interest in aiding the service project. She also mentioned high-school age Boy Scouts have also lent their support in past years. 

Gorman suggests all who attend this year, as always, wear either work clothes or sweats, and to dress in layers since all work will be performed outside. 

To volunteer for the various projects connected to this event, please sign up by visiting: http://www.cherryhill-nj.com/1164/MLK-Day-of-Service.