Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, August 22, 2001


This summer the Urban Park Rangers have been offering Explorer Programs filled with educational activities to introduce New Yorkers to the City’s natural environment. People looking in their local papers for something free to do on the weekends have found exciting options throughout the city. The activities include canoeing, biking, fishing, orienteering & hiking, active conservation, nature exploration, local history, performing arts, lectures, and special events. Programs typically last around three hours.

Ranger Yvonne Monge recently recalled encountering residents from the Bronx participating in one of the many nature walks offered at Pelham Bay, “They were born and raised in the Bronx, and had been coming to Orchard Beach since they were children. Yet, they had never taken the small path leading past Orchard Beach into the natural side of the park. They wound up having a great time observing the abundant aquatic wildlife of the tidal pools, salt marshes, and rock beaches, and came away with a whole new outlook on Pelham Bay. ”

Yvonne started at Parks last June. Previously she worked as a Zoo keeper for the Bronx Zoo. An inquisitive individual with a deep appreciation for the outdoors, Yvonne finds herself constantly expanding her knowledge of the ecology of New York. “When I learn something new I feel compelled to share it,” she says. Whether she is giving tours of historic houses, teaching the basics of fishing for bass and bluegills, or explaining the food chain of tidal pools, Yvonne has found Explorer programs to be an effective way to connect people to the natural environments within parks, and have good time doing it.

For ten-year veteran, Urban Park Ranger Perry (Kestrel) Wargo the Explorer Programs have been “a great chance to meet interesting people, and have good conversations. A wonderful exchange of knowledge inevitably takes place, because these programs attract the interest of people, mostly adults, from all backgrounds.” During a recent orienteering outing, Perry taught New Yorkers how to use a compass and topography map in Central Park. For Perry this was the highlight of the summer. “As we made our way from one end of the park to the other, off the beaten trail, the group really came together,” said Perry. While teaching the basics of orienteering Perry pointed out flora and fauna along the way, paying special attention to the birds overhead that most of the members of the group had seen before but never identified.

According to Perry, “the Rangers have been offering the public these kinds of activities for years, but now they have a new name and a fresh look to them.” The Rangers have also made clear that sharing information and observations with people eager to learn about the urban environment is an effective way to garner support for conservation efforts.

By Andrew (Chevre) Gray

(Wednesday, August 24, 1988)


Five-Borough Shops and the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps (CVC) have just finished installing exercise courses at McCarren Park in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach in Queens, bringing the number of outdoor fitness courses in city parks around the city to nine. The courses provide health-conscious New Yorkers with a free alternative to crowded, expensive health clubs.

Exercise courses, which combine the great outdoors with gymnasium-like exercise equipment, were first introduced in California. They have become popular around the country, according to Fitness Coordinator Kathryn Zarcadoolas. The mile-long courses are designed to condition the cardio-vascular system and tone muscles. Words and pictures guide athletes every step of the way, with separate instructions for beginners and advanced athletes, and cool down exercises at the end of the course. “There are even instructions on how to measure your heartbeat,” said Zarcadoolas, who holds an M.A. in Exercise Physiology and now works for Recreation.


“Man is a singular creature. He has a set of gifts which make him unique among the
animals: so that, unlike them, he is not a figure in the landscape
—he is a shaper of the landscape.
In body and in mind he is the explorer of nature, the ubiquitous animal,
who did not find but has made his home in every continent.”

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974)

Directions to Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

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