WESTFIELD, NJ — A proposal to enhance mountain bike trails in Brightwood Park has sparked a renewed interest in the 44-acre nature preserve — an interest that manifested itself with a cleanup of the recreational area this past weekend.

About two dozen supporters of the Friends of Brightwood Park turned out for a cleanup of the southwest section of the park Saturday and Sunday, organizers said.

“The park has been neglected for a long time,” said Rob Lombard, a resident of Seneca Place, who organized the cleanup. “We feel that we really need to do our part as residents to show support.”

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Lombard, 70, told TAPinto Westfield that the Friends cleaned up a portion of the park along its southern fence line bordering Scotch Plains, where debris had been dumped over the years.

Over the course of the two-day cleanup, he said, the friends filled to three-quarters capacity a 40-yard dumpster, piling in refuse including old toilets, refrigerators, water heaters and bottles among other debris that had been left in the park.

The Friends of Brightwood Park had seen a resurgence in interest several months ago, said Lombard, who explained that 50 people attended a Zoom meeting for the friends recently, and the group is seeking nonprofit status.

Plans for a mountain bike trail in the park, which have been submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection, renewed interest in the park, he said.

“It’s kind of awakened for us a need to show our support of the park in the way it’s been developed and preserved over time,” Lombard said.

The next steps, he said, will be to continue removal of  Japanese wisteria — an invasive plant that has been proliferating in the park.

“We want to really be able to help to resuscitate the park and bring it back to those days when there was a diversity of plant life,” Lombard said.

The cleanup, he said, is among a series that the friends have been conducting in the park in recent weeks.

Earlier in the month, Lombard said, the volunteers worked on removing the invasive species, but there is more to remove, and they intend to try different methods.

“We want to see what way works best this fall because this time next year the knotweed will be 2-3 feet high again if we don’t develop some sort of strategy,” he said.

The next park cleanup event will be Sunday Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to noon. For more information and details on volunteering, www.FriendsOfBrightwood.org.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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