A rainbow stretched through the sky over Brightwood Park recently. How fitting that a sign of hope and beauty that appears after stormy weather graced the sky above the park. In seeming solidarity with that rainbow, there is hope and beauty in the park. The return of native plants and the appearance of new visitors with children and dogs in tow bring optimism for the future. With the park much improved and our educational programs taking off, I ask, “Where do we go from here?” It is a question of import as we ponder the future and what might be in the pot at the end of the rainbow.
Of course, we plan to continue to build on all of the work we have done to date in the coming year. However, looking into 2023, the question looms, what more should we do? At our annual membership meeting on January 14, 2023, we will seek guidance from our sustaining members.  There are so many things we could do:
If you have ideas for projects we should consider, please let us know. We have had tremendous success with our Halloween Jack-O-Lantern Trunk or Treat event. Should we consider other seasonal family events? Do you have any ideas? Would you like to help us develop events?
If you have paid annual dues by December 31, 2022 to become a sustaining member, we hope that you will bring your ideas to our January member meeting. Not only will we discuss these and other ideas, we will vote for directors for open three year terms. We will send out an email invitation in early January to all sustaining members with details for the meeting. We hope to see you in the new year!
Friends of Brightwood Park
 We have recently changed our By-Laws to reflect the true nature of our dues paying members! You sustain us and keep us going by helping to cover our operational and program expenses. We thank you for your support!
FOBP can see the future... and it is bright. This past year we have had the extraordinary opportunity to meet students and scouts in our area who give us great optimism. These bright and talented teens have brought energy and enthusiasm to the park and beyond.
Each of these projects is remarkable, and the scouts and students are commended for their conservation efforts. Their work will have a significant impact on the health of the park for many years to come. We are so excited to see their leadership and know that they will do great things in the future.
We are coming up on our second year anniversary! We have accomplished much in the past two years but have a long way to go to fulfill our mission of a restored and biodiverse nature park.
There are many signs of a returning balance to the park’s ecology. Where wisteria once created a mono-culture, native plants are now returning. This year we were thrilled to find some Jack In The Pulpits had returned to a field where they once proliferated! This native plant provides pollen for bees and berries for birds.
You can also find a grove of American Burnweed, a native herb. This native takes its name from the fact that it often grows in areas that have been burned. It can grow 2’ to 10’ tall and produces a cluster of small flowers that attract pollinators.
The garden by the dam that we planted is sprouting partridge pea and smallspike false nettle. These native plants are in an area once inhabited solely by invasive mugwort.
Walking through the park, I spotted so many more native plants. American pokeweed is popping up. It produces purple-black berries in the late summer/fall that sustain birds. There is a stand of Carolina allspice bushes just up from the dam, and deerberry (a species of blueberry) are spreading in the forest understory.
With invasive plants coming under control, it seems our native plants are breathing a sigh of relief. Trees that were slowly being strangled by wisteria vines are now able to grow freely. I am personally proud of a particular cherry tree. Once uprooted and brought down by thick wisteria vines, it has found new life. We freed it from the vines that engulfed its trunk, and its will to survive took over! Though its root ball is partially exposed and its trunk is horizontal to the ground, its branches are reaching up to grow into new trees! Have you seen this wonder of nature?
This year we greatly improved trail accessibility by doing some stone dust maintenance on the pond loop. Heavy rain has rutted some areas, and we are hoping to do some spot maintenance. We are also looking at solutions to hillside erosion problems.
While we are thrilled with these successes, we are not yet satisfied. Our hope is that park visitors will be inspired by this rebirth.
Because we would love to see more people experiencing the serenity found in nature and more children exploring the park, we are working hard to raise awareness about the park. We offer children’s programs, Plein Air painting, and history tours. FOBP sponsors Earth Day, Halloween Trunk or Treat, Read Across America, and clean up days in the park. We are also cultivating relationships with students and teachers to help them see Brightwood as a resource. We look forward to encouraging environmental preservation amongst scouts and others who seek to fulfill service requirements.
We have come together with a common purpose – to protect and preserve Brightwood Park. Our shared vision has brought us together as friends and collaborators. Covid prevented us from gathering socially before, but we see a future where the “Friends” of Brightwood Park have real opportunities to share “friendship.” As a call for action, we invite you to join our Social Committee or at least to join us at an upcoming social event!
As you can see, we are a dedicated and energetic group. We welcome all who would like to join us as we forge a future for the park and those who visit it.
Here's hoping this Jack-In-The-Pulpit's seeds find fertile ground!
When we founded FOBP, we had our sights on restoration of a 44 acre park. We have worked hard to make Brightwood Park a destination for anyone seeking the sanctuary found in nature. In embracing our mission, we have discovered that what is happening in the park has a broader impact!
Our focus of returning biodiversity to the park has elevated consciousness of the importance of native plants to sustain life in a broader context. The park had been badly overrun by beautiful, but invasive, non-native plants. These plants are foreign to native insects and pollinators who evolved to live with native plants. For example, native insects developed special adaptations that allow their mouthparts to access flower nectar. These insects do not have adaptive features needed to feed on or live off non-native species.
Birds that depend on native insects have fewer egg clutches and fewer offspring that survive when native insects are not plentiful. Experts have expressed concern about the decline in songbird populations. Like the proverbial, “canary in a coal mine,” this decline is concerning for all life.
Park visitors who happen upon the Westfield Parks Invasive Plants volunteer strike team frequently stop to ask questions and learn about the threats to biodiversity from non-native plants. Through educational outreach and FOBP’s demonstration native plant gardens, we have begun a broader dialogue in the community about what is in the park and, importantly, what we all plant in our gardens. The rise in awareness of the need to plant native has fueled an increase in native plant orders that FOBP distributed as part of our support for the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s spring native plant sale. This spring, Westfield area residents accounted for the second highest sales (just behind Morristown)!
As we continue our efforts in Brightwood Park, we encourage everyone to rethink their home gardens and GO NATIVE!!
Spring is coming... time for a re-awakening!
Friends of Brightwood Park have been busy sprucing up the park in anticipation of springtime visitors. With the support of the Department of Public Works, the guidance of Greg O'Neill and assistance of Rich Eubanks and Matt, Rob Lombard set the course to complete maintenance of the pond loop trail. The town provided the stone, FOBP provided the muscle.
Come take a walk around the park and watch the plants bloom!
Friends of Brightwood Park have great expectations for 2022! These expectations spring from the potential locked in a nature preserve nestled in a suburb. With families in abundance and nature scarce, unlocking that potential offers opportunity to enrich the lives of so many.
To fulfill our mission to restore, preserve, and educate, we have a robust plan for the year. It begins with our continuing effort to eliminate rogue invasive plants that threaten biodiversity. This year, we will also reintroduce native plants and pollinator gardens in limited areas. Additionally, we hope to continue basic trail maintenance on the pond loop trail.
Our educational offerings are wide ranging. History tours bring the stories of the African American community that once lived in the Big Woods to life. Cooperating with the Westfield Green Team and the Great Swamp Watershed Association, we have promoted information sessions on “Uninvited” invasive species such as the lanternfly, native plant gardening, and the significance of supporting a healthy ecosystem. Our family oriented programs bring enrichment to children and opportunities for artists.
For those of us volunteering in the park to make this all possible, the best part of all is that we get to share our time and talents with an incredible group of people. I remain inspired by their passion and dedication and awed by their generous sharing of knowledge. I invite and encourage you to join this amazing group.
As we enter our second year, it is a time for great hope. The park’s ecology is on an upward trajectory, and more people are visiting the park to enjoy nature. FOBP is looking forward to a collaboration with the town to continue to improve the park and offer more programs. To this end, we have prepared a three year plan.
Some of the goals in our plan include:
We have many more ideas on how to serve the community while preserving nature. For example, we could offer a Little Library Nature Book Share, senior nature walks, photography, music in the park, yoga/pilates and so much more. Much depends upon expressed needs in the community and volunteers to make it happen.
FOBP has ambitious goals that can only be accomplished in full partnership with the town and with the support and volunteerism of our “Friends.” We look forward to a close collaboration with the town and our community at large to restore Brightwood Park to a healthy and beautiful biodiverse ecosystem.
Ultimately, Brightwood Park’s future depends upon us. I guess in the same vein, our future depends upon our ability to protect and preserve biodiversity in parks such as Brightwood. Considering the goals of the recent climate summit, preservation of this open space is particularly timely.
Japanese knotweed? What IS that? And how could the bamboo-like plant with the nice white flowers be so bad?
There it was, looking all innocent and lovely, growing profusely around the Brightwood Park parking lot. It looked blameless to me, and kind of pretty, besides.
Then I learned about its somewhat alarming habits.
Phil Round, one of Friends of Brightwood Park's resident experts, summed it up to our group of volunteers, gathered for the cleanup at the park on this bright sunshiny morning. I also looked it up on Google:
- Japenese knotweed is native to East Asia
- Some lenders will decline all mortgage applications for properties where knotweed is present
- It is classified as an aggressive, destructive and invasive pest
- It spreads rapidly, forming dense thickets, crowding out and shading out native vegetation, reducing species diversity
- There is very little other growth underneath it, so the bare soil is susceptible to erosion
OK, OK, I was convinced. A thoroughly bad actor. But it was, maybe, 10 or 15 feet tall! And besides, there was so incredibly much of it! What exactly were we going to do about this thing?
It turns out that cutting knotweed is not difficult. Your lopper or shears cut right through the hollow stem. Problem is there are so many stems. So MANY millions of stems! And then you HAVE to drag the long stems into a pile in the parking lot for the Dept. of Public Works to cart away.
Actually, well, you DON'T really have to do any of this... No cutting. No dragging.
But for some reason, our band of volunteers was committed to doing it.
As we were hacking and slicing, cutting, whacking and dragging, I pondered this: here is a group of people who presumably have other things to do on a beautiful Saturday morning. And yet, here we are, young and old, in our old jeans and garden gloves, slick with sweat and bug spray, working like our lives depend on it.
Did our lives depend on it? Assuredly, no. But our way of life does.
It's a way of life that values something precious: a nature preserve that belongs to us all. A place like no other in Westfield. A place that our children can enjoy because we worked hard on it.
A place that needs us now.
We were amazed at the extent of the trash, in piles both deep and wide. We walked forward into the woods, crunching glass underfoot, over piles of thousands of liquor bottles, mostly broken. Possibly this was a gathering place for drinkers who then threw their bottles against the tree trunks...maybe for fun, or vying for distance...? We also saw smashed dishes, cups, furniture, garden hoses and plenty of plastic refuse in this rubbish heap. There was a variety of shoes, and several pairs of ancient "nylons" to accompany them. Hoping to possibly find something valuable, like a diamond ring, we were also anxious we'd discover something worthy of Forensic Files. When someone unearthed a leg (see photo), there was a collective intake of breath, but it was a mannequin's leg.
Some of us wrestled out larger items; a water heater, tires, a bed frame, lawn chairs, a broken couch... with the help of a pickaxe and a wheelbarrow which someone had the foresight to bring. But most of the Friends of Brightwood Park volunteers sat or knelt on a cleared spot among the struggling undergrowth, gathering shards and various pieces of multicolored glass for hours, dropping them into our sturdy Home Depot buckets, using heavy work gloves. The more we collected, the more we found, in layer upon layer. We took turns carrying or passing along the heavy, full buckets down the trail to the awaiting dumpster, rented for the occasion.
Among us, someone said loudly: "I never knew working could be so much fun". Surprisingly, there were assenting comments all around, in the woods, among the toiling volunteers. We probably sensed the atmosphere of friendly teamwork. And we additionally may have felt the rush of satisfaction found in striving towards a goal larger than ourselves, that of improving the environment for everyone.
But most of all, there was a feeling of delight. For it was obvious to all our eyes that this area of Brightwood Park hadn't looked THIS good in many, many years.
Brightwood Park is on the North end of Prospect Street. Go past Franklin School and look for the entrance on the left.