The Secaucus Next Generation Community Leaders determined the scope of our project and we were very excited about it! The area we most wanted to focus on was creating a healthier, safer, and more pleasant community through efforts that focus on improving our environment.
To do this, we partnered with the Secaucus Environmental Department to conduct a community park audit project. During the month of July, we visited all of the parks in our town to assess certain safety and leisure components such as proper signage regarding town ordinances and state laws, trash and recycling receptacles, and broken or unsafe equipment. In addition, we conducted a walkability audit in the areas surrounding our parks to measure how safe the area is for pedestrians who want to visit these neighborhoods.
But we didn’t just want to take inventory, we wanted to make change! We also took some important steps to make our project sustainable. In partnership with Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, we put up tobacco-free signage to reflect the current laws about smoke-free parks. Installing permanent signs to our parks is an environmental-change strategy that we hope will decrease the risk to public health and to our ecosystem from litter such as cigarette butts and vape cartridges. As part of our audit we kept a log of the type of litter that we found in the parks. This database will allow us to make recommendations or address an issue in the future that is causing that specific type of litter to occur. We also gathered data on the potential threats to public health that these findings may cause. We compiled and presented all of this data to our mayor and council, and we offered suggestions for how to address these issues that included recommended changes to town policies. Our goal was to ensure our work this summer would create lasting change.