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Shore Park and Parkway

Vinland Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground commemorates the first discovery of America by Norse explorer Leif Ericson (c.960-c.1020) and subsequent naming of the continent as Vinland.

In the 1990s, Parks Commissioner Stern named the site to honor both the rich Norse heritage of the Bay Ridge community and the Leif Ericson discovery of America. Ericson was probably the first European to set foot on the American continent, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus’s (1451-1505) voyages. Ericson is believed to have been born in Iceland to Eric the Red, a short-tempered nobleman and explorer who discovered and colonized Greenland.

The Norse Eddas and Sagas, the oral tradition of the Norse later written down by Christian monks, tell that Ericson’s famous discovery was, at first, an accident. En route to Greenland, his longboat was blown off-course by a severe storm. Arriving on the northeastern coast of the strange and uncharted North American continent a few weeks later, Ericson deduced that he had made a navigational error. He noted the mistake and turned his longboat around, successfully headed for Greenland.

A short time later the Norse explorer returned to the hilly lands he now called Vinland, named for the abundance of grapes. Ericson arrived armed with volunteers who shared his hopes of colonizing the area, just as his father had done in Greenland. Leif’s hopes were in vain. Attacked by beings referred to as Skraelings (who were actually continental natives), besieged by a harsh winter, and low on food, the would-be Norse settlers withdrew from the unforgiving Vinland and returned to Greenland in 1001.

Eight centuries after Ericson’s Atlantic voyages, Norwegians began to migrate to American shores. A large number arrived in New York after 1825, and many made their homes in Brooklyn. By the turn of the century, the neighborhood of Bay Ridge supported a variety of Norwegian cultural, charitable, and business institutions.

This playground, located deep within Shore Road Park in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge, was built in conjunction with the Belt Parkway, one of 16 parkways in the New York metropolitan area built by Robert Moses (1888–1981). Developed in 1924, the thoroughfare was part of the future Parks Commissioner’s vision to increase automobile access to the five boroughs, as well as to Westchester County and Long Island. Moses considered Shore Parkway and the rest of the Belt Parkway a “continuous park system, not merely an automobile artery, a system of shoestring parks and recreational facilities encircling the entire metropolis…”

The playground underwent reconstruction in March 1999. It now contains adventure play equipment, swings, benches and a spray shower adorned by an artistic representation of a seal.

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