WESTFIELD, NJ - At the May 1 Westfield council conference meeting, 16-year-old Boy Scout Rahul Nair presented the council with his plan to revitalize the Dunham Avenue Sanctuary for his Eagle Project. The little-known abandoned bird sanctuary takes up about one square mile. Currently in poor condition, the area cannot be used for any purpose other than as a bird sanctuary due to its designation.
“The sanctuary was closed in the 90s due to excessive dirt-biking and vandalism,” explained Nair. The area is also littered with trash, he had told The Alternative Press earlier. Despite the poor conditions, Nair said he had spotted woodpeckers, turtle doves and sparrows in the sanctuary on his visits.
Nair detailed his plan to lead other Boy Scouts in cleaning up garbage, placing logs along sides of paths for better marking and placing additional logs across the paths to deter dirt-biking. He said that he hoped the town would assist him by hauling away trash and providing wood chips for the Scouts to spread around the sanctuary. He is also seeking and expects assistance from the National Audubon Society.
“We can help with the removal of [garbage] and with the woodchips,” responded Town Administrator Jim Gildea, who was familiar with Nair’s project. He added, “We had a long discussion about this, how it does border residential property, so we’re not looking to make this a heavily trafficked area.”
Once itis approved by the town and the Eagle Scouts, Nair hopes to begin his project in June and finish by August.
Because the sanctuary is so large and has been left to deteriorate for so long, Nair said he believes that many more Scouts will want to use the area for their own projects, such as removing invasive species of plants and replacing them with native species and adding signage so that visitors can learn about the birds there.
The council gave conditional approval, asking that Nair first present his plan to the Recreation Commission so that they could give their input. “I’m always impressed with the Eagle Scouts that come in,” noted James Foerst, who was acting as mayor that evening while Councilwoman Jo Ann Neylan was unable to attend and Mayor Andy Skibitsky recovered from pneumonia.