Stories in Connecticut

A Transformation in Bridgeport

“I found a bottle. Where’s the recycling bin?”

SV Park Splash
SV Park Members of the Bridgeport Mayor’s Conservation Corps plant a tree at the city’s Read School during a work day last spring. © The Nature Conservancy (Andrew Benson)

For The Nature Conservancy’s Cynthia Fowx, hearing those words—shouted by a student at Bridgeport’s Read School during a workday at nearby Svihra Park—was more gratifying than she easily can explain.

“When I started working with our partners here, I didn’t imagine that in such a short time I would hear kids talking about recycling while helping build an outdoor classroom,” says Fowx, who’s helped lead a Conservancy collaboration with Read School, The City of Bridgeport and Aquarion Water Company. The four teamed up to clean up—and inspire Read School students to make Svihra Park their own.

The Conservancy got involved almost three years ago, working alongside the city to help realize its vision for strengthening the benefits natural areas at the park provide. The Conservancy's science and land management experience, combined with the community's knowledge, led to a plan for a healthier, cleaner and safer park.

Today, students and parents walk through the park after school, and the outdoor classroom built by Aquarion Water Company allows students to get to know their park and learn about nature.

“It gives the students a chance to get out there and make a positive impact on their community,” says Read School Home School Coordinator Lisa Nelson. “It’s a place for them to be able to get their hands dirty and to make a difference, and it feels good for them.”

The Conservancy is working toward a long-term partnership to support the community’s vision for the park. We hope to apply what we’ve learned at Svihra Park in other neighborhoods and communities.