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Inwood Hill Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, July 30, 2002


Entering a new position, even within Parks, can be a harrowing experience. Although I had worked with the Urban Park Rangers on various projects as an assistant to Deputy Commissioner Garafola, previous experience did not completely allay the kind of "first day of school" jitters I felt when passing through the doors of Arsenal North for the first time as an official member of the Rangers.

I had good reason to be anxious about my new position. There is never a dull moment working for the Rangers, a number of reliable sources told me before making the move. I learned this all too quickly in my first week as I tried to juggle various projects, visit nature centers, meet Rangers, and manage a mounting stack of papers on my desk. It took just three weeks for me to learn, however, that working for the Rangers would be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Parks received approval for an eagle reintroduction project in mid June. The eaglets would be hacked (released) at a chosen location in Inwood Hill Park. Everyone in the division was understandably excited. Without delay, the phones began to ring incessantly. Everybody worked long hours. Reintroducing four American Bald Eagles in a New York City park had never happened before.

We had less than two weeks to put together a platform, two large nesting boxes, and a thousand feet of fencing. We produced a bi-weekly schedule providing 24-hour security coverage, purchased a state-of-the-art security camera, retrieved missing motion sensors from storage, and installed Internet access at Inwood Hill Nature Center.

Everything became about the eagles. They consumed me. I constantly brought the project up in conversation with friends and family, and dreamt about it in my sleep. I even worked weekends!

One Saturday morning late in June , I guided Parks Vehicle 474 through the sidewalks of Inwood Hill Park, slowly making my way to the site a quarter mile up the hill. As I walked down the footpath to the site, I could hear the sound of hammering and electric saws. Indelibly placed in my memory is the sight of two Manhattan Forestry tree climbers, each hanging by rope and pulley some 20 feet off the ground. They had just bolted a 14 foot piece of 2X10 lumber to two Cherry Blossoms, creating the first side of the platform’s base. An hour for lunch was the only time the climbers spent on the ground the entire day.

Five-boro had sent out roughly ten carpenters that morning to begin construction of the platform. Working on scaffolding 20 feet in the air, they worked at a rapid pace installing the support legs and the base of the platform. The speed at which these climbers and carpenters worked was inspirational, given the fact that they were constructing a 19-foot tall, two-ton apparatus – square on the side of a mountain. They were understandably proud of their accomplishment.

Four days later, the last bolt had been placed on the nesting boxes, which stands 6X6. The platform, covering 196 square feet, was finally complete. The climbers and carpenters packed up their tools, roped them down, and made their final descent from the platform. All that remained was to introduce the eaglets to their new home, a spacious, rent-controlled loft high above the salt marsh of northern Manhattan.

By mid-Thursday afternoon the eaglets arrived at the site. With the help of the Earth Conservation Corps, we carefully walked the crates from the cars to the site. Using a pulley and rope, we lifted the boxes to the platform. Ranger Falconer Tom Cullen led the placement of the eaglets in the nesting boxes among a hoard of on-lookers. The Eagles had finally landed in Inwood. Our mission was complete.

Recently, one of the eaglets unexpectedly flew off as it was evidently startled during the daily feeding. The Rangers monitored the progress of the bird through radio telemetry and the occasional sighting. After nearly a week of being on its own, without food, the eaglet finally returned to the nest. Relieved by the news, I began to contemplate the chaos of the past two months, thinking to myself, "never a dull moment."

Written by Luke Gebhard


"And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is—‘Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty.’"

Emily Brontë

(July 30, 1818–1848)

Directions to Inwood Hill Park

Know Before You Go

Nature CentersInwood Hill Nature Center

Due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, this facility is closed until further notice.

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