Spring, Sun, Saturday—and Sand!
April 15, 2013

Spring, Sun, Saturday—and Sand!

Our son Riley is 10, and it occurred to us recently that we don’t know the last time he played in a sandbox.  At some point, he’d moved onto the big swing sets and the big jungle gyms and never looked back on the small slides, bucket swings, and sandboxes.  Unlike starting a new grade or riding a bike without training wheels, so many developments come and go without any fanfare. 

We mulled this over last Saturday as we participated in the Riverside Park Conservancy’s annual "Sandsational Riverside" event, where volunteers shovel fresh sand into sandboxes, repatriate sand from outside the sandbox, rake the sand for sticks and other objects, and generally sweep up the playground. 

We were assigned to the Claremont “Dolphin” playground located behind the General Grant National Memorial at 124th Street and Riverside Drive.  There were about 10 other volunteers on our team, including several students from nearby Columbia University, and 8 other Sandsational efforts taking place at playgrounds that stretched from the Newufeld “Elephant” playground at 76th Street, to the Riverbank “Camel” playground at 143rd Street. 

Suburban Chore-turned-City Sandsation

When we were growing up in the suburbs, attending to tasks around the yard generally made us grumble.  Weeding, raking, shoveling, and sweeping could be hard and monotonous work, and these chores generally ate into play time with friends. 

Riley felt much differently when given the chance to volunteer. He kept saying “This is so much fun!” and “I love doing this!” as he went from rake, to shovel, to broom, and back.  Something about not having to do it every weekend and doing it as a family—along with excitement of meeting new people—turned this ordinary task into a great event.  It also gave children and adults alike a deeper appreciation for the work it takes to keep our parks and playgrounds beautiful. 

The event was held from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M., and afterwards, we went back home for a bit.  However the weather was too lovely to stay indoors so at the children’s request, we headed back to the Dolphin playground to marvel anew at our handiwork.  It was the first truly spring-like day we’ve had all year, and by the time we returned, there were a half-dozen toddlers in the sandbox industriously shoveling sand into small buckets, hoisting the buckets onto the edge of the sandbox—and dumping their haul over onto pavement below! 

‘Tis the Season

From spring through early fall there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in your local park—or one further afield.  Events are hosted by the city Parks Department and park-specific volunteer groups, such as the Riverside Park Conservancy, throughout the city.  We are already looking forward to weeding and cleaning underbrush in early summer, and planting bulbs and tiny trees later in the summer into early fall. 

The Parks Department has also announced the locations for its annual MillionTreesNYC planting effort, to be held the weekend of April 27 and 28.  Volunteers are welcome to sign up and join Park staff at the following locations: 

  • Pelham Bay Park/Turtle Cove, in the Bronx
  • Alley Pond Park, in Queens
  • Idlewild Park, in Queens
  • Floyd Bennett Field, in Brooklyn
  • Clove Lakes Park, in Staten Island



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