PPA Profile: Mark Anthony’s 25 Years at the Alliance
June 20, 2018
This June, Prospect Park Alliance marks a staff milestone as Mark Anthony, the supervisor of our Natural Resources Crew, celebrates 25 years with the Alliance, the non-profit that cares for the park. When Mark joined in the early 1990s, the Alliance was only seven years old, just beginning to make its mark in the revival of these vast 585 acres. We sat down with Mark to catch up on the changes he has seen in the park and his reflections on 25 years.
Congratulations on 25 years at Prospect Park Alliance! How did you begin your work with the Alliance?
I grew up in Brooklyn, and came to the Alliance through a program called the City Volunteer Corps, an organization that took inner-city kids and placed them in jobs that helped clean up the city. I started in a horticultural position, and after six months and an exchange program in Washington, D.C., I took a seasonal horticultural position at the Alliance. I started learning the trade from there, pruning and taking care of trees. I also got a second seasonal position working at the old ice skating rink in the winters. I switched back to horticulture in the summer, doing woodland work, and going back and forth, until the Alliance hired me full-time to work in the woodlands.
What were the woodlands like in 1994?
It was decrepit and a mess; it was unsafe to go through. You didn’t even know the woods were there because there was a vast amount of erosion, graffiti and garbage: you couldn’t figure out what was what. The trees there were mostly invasive species, there were no native trees where wildlife could thrive. That was the main reason we created the Natural Resources Crew, to bring back the habitat, diversify the woodlands, and make it better so people could use the park.
Have you seen the results of your work in the park?
Our work in the woodlands—the Ravine, Midwood, and Lookout Hill—helped mark the boundaries, to show “here are the woodlands, here is a path”. We restored the habitat, rebuilt slopes, planted native species. We restored the waterfall in the Ravine. It was underground, so we had to dig it up and get the water flowing through it again.
Our work has been successful. Certain bird species come through the park that we hadn’t seen in years. Chipmunks are back in the park, I don’t know where they went but they’re back now, the population is growing. We have owls and Red-tailed hawks, egrets that nest here and continue to come back each year. And the people are enjoying the park, too. They’re enjoying them too much, but you can’t fault them for that. That’s the reason we do the work, it’s people’s habitat too.
What do you enjoy about this work?
My job is a different than it used to be when I first joined the Alliance. I’m supervising the work of a crew, but I still get a chance to get my hands dirty. I go out and push the mower, push the weed-whacker, and even that is gratifying. You transform the area, make it visible and safe, and now people can actually use it. There’s gratification in seeing your labor and hard work put into this place. Seeing trees I planted that are surviving, some 15-feet tall. Seeing landscapes I worked on a long time ago, and they’re still thriving. This is something that is part of what I need to be doing: giving back to nature, people and the world.