Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

The Daily Plant : Thursday, July 1, 2004


They may not wrestle 12-foot alligators like Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, but the Urban Park Ranger program (UPR) still knows how to thrill New Yorkers. From canoeing the Bronx River to rock climbing in Manhattan, UPR offers a variety of programs for adventurers of all ages.

"Our programs are designed to introduce the public to natural areas in New York City," said Sara Aucoin, Deputy Director of UPR. "People may be familiar with a park in their neighborhood, but they often don’t get the opportunity to explore the park and really enjoy it. Our programs open New Yorkers’ eyes to the possibilities of parkland."

During the summer, the Junior Ranger Summer Day Camp in Brooklyn’s Marine Park and Manhattan’s Inwood Hill Park combines educational activities with outdoor excursions that have New York City’s youth canoeing, fishing, and competing in team-building activities. The camp provides city youth with the chance to participate in an overnight campout, complete with a cookout, fireside chats, an evening hike, and a night spent slumbering under a blanket of stars. Even better, the camp costs only $50 per week, a "drop in the bucket" in comparison to other summer camps, said Aucoin. For families interested in nighttime adventures, campgrounds are available on Friday and Saturday nights at Alley Pond Park in Queens.

If camping is not for you, UPR offers daytime and evening activities in all 12 nature centers. For adventure seekers, the Rangers organize canoeing voyages in Orchard Beach Lagoon and biking explorations through Inwood Hill Park. Those looking to enjoy the serenity of the park can cast fishing lines or go birding. Through concerts, lectures, and nature walks, the Rangers fulfill their mission of educating New Yorkers about their natural surroundings.

UPR also runs the Natural Classroom for students in grades K-8. The program uses New York City parks as an outdoor classroom to teach lessons in cultural and natural history. In May 2004, the Urban Park Rangers conducted about 150 school programs citywide. The Rangers also offer a volunteer program for those interested in giving back to their green spaces. The volunteers assist the rangers in researching local history, writing program announcements and grants, and greeting visitors.

The New York City Urban Park Ranger program originated in 1979 as a means to protect city wildlife by patrolling the parks and educating the public about natural resources. The Rangers seek to increase biodiversity in parks through habitat restoration and enhancement, surveys, conservation, education, and species introduction.

With all of the programs that the Urban Park Rangers offer, every day can be a walk in the park. For more information about the Junior Ranger Summer Day Camp or other upcoming Urban Park Ranger events, log onto www.nyc.gov/parks and click on "About Parks", "Divisions", and then "Urban Park Rangers".

Written by Melissa Kuhn


"The problem is not just what we don’t know, but what we do know
that ain’t so."

Mark Twain

Directions to Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

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