Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Person of the Week

Joanne Chvisuk: Sharing Her Love of the Great Outdoors

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As vice president of the Peter’s Rock Association Board, Joanne Chvisuk is ideally placed to help share her love of the outdoors with the community. Photo courtesy of Joanne Chvisuk

As vice president of the Peter’s Rock Association Board, Joanne Chvisuk is ideally placed to help share her love of the outdoors with the community. (Photo courtesy of Joanne Chvisuk)

Joanne Chvisuk grew up in New Haven. Since she moved to North Haven almost 20 years ago, this active outdoors lover has found plenty of ways to enjoy and preserve nature in the area.

She’s been a member of the Peter’s Rock Association for more than 15 years and serves as vice president of the board, which works to maintain Peter’s Rock Park on Middletown Avenue.

Admittedly, group activities were much easier before the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, COVID really put a damper on our group as a whole,” Joanne says. “We’re a small group. There’s only 12 of us that work the park, maintain it, improve the trails, the picnicking areas, and we really try to do some guided hikes throughout the year that more or less surround holidays.”

But because their group centers around the still-relatively-safe great outdoors, some activities are still going on. The Peter’s Rock Association held an Earth Day Cleanup on April 17. Joanne says the goals were to “clean the park up, although we try to keep on top of that, (and also) introduce the park to people who have never been there before.”

The park also hosts hikers on National Trails Day, which this year is Saturday, June 5. Guided hikes to the summit will begin at 10 a.m. Groups will be limited to a headcount of 10 to 15 people to adhere to social distancing guidelines while allowing families and friends to walk together.

The group’s reach extends beyond the park. The past couple of years, they’ve been involved with UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy and students from Lyman Hall High School. Many scouts have completed their eagle scout badges by building bridges and picnic tables.

The Peter’s Rock Association also offers plots for $20 at an organic community garden “for people who don’t have the space or the inclination to dig up their own yard,” Joanne says. “It’s a social event as well for them. They do their own gardening. There’s a water tank there of like 1,500 gallons of water. Our Montowese Fire Department fills it for us so people have access to water their plants and they don’t have to worry about carrying water in.”

The group is especially proud of its work with Department of Energy & Environmental Protection a couple of years ago in cooperation with UConn. Joanne explains that scientists developed a blight-resistant version of the American chestnut tree, which she says was native to this area of Connecticut before it was wiped out by blight and disease.

A dozen of the trees were planted throughout the park, which corresponds to the number of board members. Each took responsibility for caring for a tree.

“I have one,” Joanne says. “It’s not too far from my home. I’d say it’s about 5 or 6 feet tall now. We plant them as seedlings from a coffee cup. It’s nice to bring something back that’s native and seems to be doing well. We’re hoping that they start to prosper again in the state.”

Joanne still gets excited when she talks about Peter’s Rock Park.

“The red trail, which is our most popular trail, leads up to the summit, which is the highest point in North Haven,” she says. “When you’re up there, the three views are phenomenal.”

On clear days, viewers can take in Sleeping Giant, the Hanging Hills of Meriden, and New Haven harbor and you the Quinnipiac Bridge.

“The sight’s unbelievable—a nice jewel in North Haven that we have and we’re able to keep it up and keep it for people to use again,” she says.

With COVID-19 still lurking and social distancing rules still in effect, Joanne says about visiting the park, “It’s a great family activity. It offers an opportunity really to do everything—to socialize with your family, get out, get some exercise, get some fresh air at the same time. Even in this COVID atmosphere you can take advantage of it.”

Joanne herself has gained more free time to enjoy the outdoors.

“Up until this past year I was working full time in the pharmaceutical industry and COVID sort of pushed my hand into retirement,” she says. “To tell you the truth, I’m loving it because I am getting out more. I actually started doing some Nordic walking. I’m hoping I can coerce some of my friends into joining me and doing a walking club.”

Working with the Peter’s Rock Association at the park, Joanne is in her element.

“I love being outside,” she says. “I think it’s just healthy to get out and walk and move. I’ve always been a high energy level person. Being involved with this association has really made me feel like I’m giving back to my community as well.”

For more information about Peter’s Rock Park or the group, visit www.petersrockassociation.org.


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