Stray into the woods behind Pettoranello Gardens, across 206 from the Community Park soccer fields, and you may wonder if you've happened upon ruins of an ancient civilization lost in the overgrowth. Strange towers rise out of the thickets, and improbably massive picnic tables lay half-sunken in the dirt. Markers reveal the identity of various trees, suggesting a nature trail once meandered through this forgotten landscape.
Old rec dept. maps show that trails did in fact once traverse this area, but most disappeared beneath the invasion of exotic shrubs over the past couple decades. Multiflora rose silently covered this land in a Sleeping Beauty-like shroud of thorns.
Then along came Harald Zurakowski, Princeton resident, seeking an eagle scout project. With help from the Friends of Princeton Open Space and the township, Harald planned his project, then mobilized family and friends over the Labor Day weekend to reblaze lost trails and make this place hospitable once again for hikers and native species.
Harald poses in front of one of the Long-Buried Climbing Towers of Community Park North.
This is a "before" shot, showing the intimidating thicket of multiflora rose, privet and shrub honeysuckle that Harald and friends took on with nothing more than handtools and grit. The goal was to create a viewscape in towards Pettoranello Pond from higher ground nearby.
In the process, they created access to a rocky creek next to Pettoranello Gardens.
After the viewscape was successfully cleared, they planted native wildflowers and ferns provided by Mapleton Nurseries. A few native shrubs--silky dogwood and spicebush--were spared during the clearing.