Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, May 15, 2001


Photo by Spencer (Flasher) Tucker

Over one third of New York City's parkland is forest, marshland, and fragile ecosystem. This land has always been an asset to the urban environment, but without a unifying identity to protect it. In his State of the Parks address, delivered January 19, 2001, Commissioner Henry J. (StarQuest) Stern designated 7,500 acres of parkland "Forever Wild" nature preserves. With this, Parks committed to maintain the land as wilderness, and care for it as one would a national park, a library of rare books, or a museum full of masterpieces. On Monday, May 14, 2001, Commissioner Stern announced the new initiative to the press and 25 third graders from Central Park's North Woods.

51 Forever Wild sites will be made safe and accessible to the public. Mounted PEP officers will patrol every acre, and Urban Park Rangers will lead educational tours and hands on projects. Liberally posted signs will alert New Yorkers that these grounds are nature preserves, fit to research and explore.

With accurate GIS maps, exploration will be made easy. Even New Yorkers with a poor sense of direction can log onto Parks' website and find the hidden streams, the dandelion patches, and the oak groves buried in their borough. The maps will be updated regularly by Rangers with handheld GIS devices that enable them to plot new features-illegally dumped waste or a fallen tree-directly onto computerized maps. Their work will offer cyber-surfers a virtual experience to entice them into an actual experience of wilderness.

The Forever Wild sites are habitats for a suite of species that includes 30 federally and state endangered plants as well as the region's largest heron rookery, home to more than 2,000 pairs of Colonial wading birds. These sites protect the economic interests of the neighborhood, performing for free jobs like breaking down toxins, and absorbing sediment and the run off from foul weather. NRG, which is managing $70 million in projects, is conducting restorations in 30 Forever Wild sites. Recently, they planted more than 30,000 trees in the forests of Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan and Alley Pond Park in Queens.

To prepare the Forever Wild sites and protect them for the future, Parkies carted out thousands of pounds of car parts and debris-by hand. The grounds that were once a wasteland for illegal dumping are now cleared of garbage, and lined with 25 miles of guardrail. The way is blocked to cars, but pedestrians are invited to enter and discover the natural wilds of their city.

With 51 Forever Wild sites in all five boroughs, there's a piece of wilderness for every New Yorker ready to claim one. There's Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Marine Park in Brooklyn, Central Park's North Woods in Manhattan, Alley Pond Park in Queens, and Wolf's Pond Park in Staten Island, among others.

The Forever Wild initiative will help Parks cultivate bio-diversity. On Saturday, May 12, in celebration of Bio-diversity Awareness Day, Parks released the Eastern Painted turtle, native to our ponds, back into the habitat from which it was driven by the aggressive Red-eared slider. To ensure the long-term success of the Painted turtle, Parkies and students working with Project X will restore Turtle Pond such that it is once again hospitable to the Painted turtle and all the species that make up the park's ecosystem.

For more information visit the forever wild home page

(Tuesday, May 17, 1988)


Hundreds of park volunteers, dressed in matching red and white t-shirts and hats, were at their posts at various locations of Central and Prospect Parks to raise public donations, while others helped spruce up the parks at the sixth annual YOU GOTTA HAVE PARK celebration last weekend.

Mayor Koch joined Commissioner Stern, Channel 13 President Bill Baker, and television stars Captain Kangaroo, Mr. McFeely and Lady Aberlin of Mister Rogers neighborhood and Bob McGrath and Loretta Long of Sesame Street at Bethesda Terrace to kick off the weekend festivities. The Mayor donated $5 towards the restoration of the park, and urged park users to be considerate of park workers and to clean up after their dogs. He was then presented with a YOU GOTTA HAVE PARK t-shirt, button, and hat.


"The man in the wilderness asked of me
How many strawberries grew in the sea.
I answered him as I thought good,
"As many red herrings grow in the wood."


Directions to Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

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