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First Bloom With The First Lady

Castle Clinton National Monument

National Park News

Castle Clinton National Monument served as the backdrop on April 21st for the inaugural event in New York City of First Bloom, a National Park Foundation (NFP) program that connects children to national parks through planting and gardening projects.

First Lady Laura Bush, NPF’s honorary chair for this program, joined children from the Lower East Side Girls Club and Boys Club of NYC at Battery Park as they planted perennials native to New York City, including the blue wood aster, scarlet beebalm and bluebells in a special garden that serves as the entrance to a meditative labyrinth. Kneeling on the grass, spade in hand, Mrs. Bush spoke with the boys and girls as she waited her turn to gently plant a seedling.

In remarks that followed, Maria Burks, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, welcomed Mrs. Bush and the guests and invited the boys and girls to consider an NPS career. Burks introduced Vin Cipolla, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation, who spoke passionately about First Bloom and praised Mrs. Bush as “the greatest champion for our national parks.”  

Mrs. Bush thanked the speakers and the assembled children, then noted: “When people think of New York City, national parks probably are not the first thing that comes to mind. But in fact there are 10 national parks in New York City and northern New Jersey. And we’re standing right in front of one of them right now. Castle Clinton, that’s behind me right here, is one of our national monuments.”

“Castle Clinton was constructed to defend New York Harbor in the war of 1812. Since then it’s served as a theater, as an immigration depot, and even as an aquarium. And this landmark was spared from being torn down in 1946. Instead, Castle Clinton became a national monument and a great example of how our national park system protects our history and our heritage.

“This National Park Week we’re celebrating what kids are doing to help preserve our natural and historic treasures. We’re also highlighting programs like First Bloom, which are bringing kids into our national parks, and bringing our national parks’ ethic of conservation right into the communities of all of our children.”

First Bloom was launched in 2007 by Mrs. Bush at the NPF Leadership Summit. The program provides children in urban environments with the opportunity to get their hands in the dirt and experience planting and gardening in their neighborhoods and our national parks. It is believed that these efforts will “plant the seeds” of conservation and environmental stewardship in the next generation. Program partners include the NPS, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and community organizations that serve children.



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