The Atlantic Cities recently reported on a fascinating psychology study being conducted at the University of Michigan, which proves just how much the brain can benefit from even brief interactions with nature, especially in contrast to an urban context. The team, led by the cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Marc Berman, asked Ann Arbor residents to take a one hour walk through either a densely populated neighborhood or Michigan’s Arboretum (see above for a map of the two routes). The results were astonishing, in many cases the participants’ mood and memory were dramatically improved after a stroll through the open green space.
Berman and his colleagues attribute this effect to the “attention restoration theory,” meaning that in a naturally calm setting such as a park, the brain processes less overwhelming stimulae and is therefore given a chance to effectively reboot from the stresses of city living. The study also produced similar mood and attention elevating results when it was later conducted with individuals diagnosed with major depression. These findings make the case for the development of urban parks even stronger, as this data gives scientific proof that parks are a necessity to the physical, and now, mental health of city residents.
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Berman’s research, be sure to check out his column for the Huffington Post.
With the support of a New York State Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant, the Department of Parks & Recreation is undertaking restoration of two acres of wetland habitat along Main Creek within Freshkills Park that will include goat grazing as a method of invasive plant control. This pilot project will provide guidance for further wetland restoration projects within the 2,200-acre site, which is the largest landfill-to-park transformation project in the world.
The project seeks to lessen the current erosive impacts at the shoreline while planting native species to enhance habitat value and prevent the return of Phragmites, a highly invasive species. It will create a wider band of salt marsh habitat and a mosaic of coastal habitat including coastal grassland for a variety of marine, avian and wildlife species. The project will stabilize the shoreline to provide additional protection for habitat from potential climate change and sea level rise and will improve water quality through increased interface between coastal plants and tidal waters.
Prior to the wetland construction, a herd of goats will perform conservation grazing to clear invasive plants from the site, particularly Phragmites. Prescribed goat grazing is more common in the rangelands of the western U.S., but is being used more often in the eastern half of the country and in more urban areas, including Governors Island and Ft. Wadsworth in New York City. Benefits of utilizing goats for prescribed grazing include:
- Goats are adept at accessing fence borders, steep slopes and other “hard to reach” plots.
- Although goats produce low levels of methane, they emit far less greenhouse gases than traditional “spark-ignition” lawn mowers.
- Research suggests grazing animals encourage root growth and denser sod cover.
- Correctly managed, animal waste is a source for free, organic fertilizer.
The pilot project will be monitored for success in Phragmites eradication and reintroduction of native plant species. For more information on the Main Creek Wetland Restoration and other projects at the site, visit the Freshkills Park website.
Join us on Sunday, July 8, as members of the Freshkills Park team, with assistance from Kayak Staten Island and generous support of the Downtown Boathouse, guide you through the creeks of Freshkills Park via kayak.
The tour will last two hours and is free of charge. Start time is 9:30 a.m. Kayaks, life vests and safety training will be provided. Most of the provided boats will be 2-person kayaks, so please note that if you come alone you may be paired with another attendee.
Meeting location is accessible only by personal vehicle (location and directions will be provided upon confirmation); there is no bicycle or public transit access at this time. This tour will be limited to participants ages 18 and up. Limit two spots per request.
Sunday, July 8, 9:30 a.m. at the Freshkills Park site. Free. Space is very limited; RSVP required. Please email email@example.com or call (212)788-8277 to reserve a spot.
Come August, Staten Island is set to become an even more bike-friendly borough. The Parks Department is in the process of completing a two-mile bike path that will connect the neighborhoods of Great Kills and New Dorp, both of which lie on the other side of Latourette Park from Freshkills Park. The path will run parallel to the southeastern coast of the Island and will provide bikers, runners and walkers a more protected and bucolic alternative to traveling along the roadways. This bike route will be a welcome complement to Freshkills Park’s own 3.3 mile New Springville Greenway, set to be completed by 2013. Eventually, the route will also include spaces for “outdoor gyms” as part of city-wide fitness initiative, BeFitNYC. The creation of this path also represents an important new partnership between several city and state agencies in order to more efficiently improve the quality of New York City’s parklands for visitors and local residents alike.
(via SI Live)
As work on Manhattan’s Second Avenue subway line progresses, those viewing the massively scaled operation may wonder, “where does all the excavated dirt and rock go?” In the past, the ‘muck’ from expanding subway lines and other construction projects has contributed to the building of Ellis Island, Governors Island and Battery Park City, among other city landmarks – including the expansion of the Manhattan shoreline. Crushed rock from the 7 train extension was used in the construction of Owl Hollow Fields at Freshkills Park on Staten Island and material from the Second Avenue line is being used in the construction of the Ferry Point Golf Course in the Bronx. Material from the Long Island Railroad expansion under the East River was used in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Additional waste is processed and sold for construction and landscaping by private companies.
(via City Atlas)
On April 21st, during Earth Day weekend, Freshkills Park hosted our very first volunteer project! Staten Island Boy Scout Packs 5 and 118 (and their parents) tended to the Million Trees planting area in the South Park section of the site.
Equipped with shovels, buckets, and a desire to help the environment, the group of about 25 volunteers weeded the 1/2 acre site, home to 950 infant trees. The newly planted trees were being overtaken by knee-high weeds, infringing on their future growth. The weeding and application of mulch around the base of the trees will help ensure their survival and reduce the need for future maintenance. Mulch – which mimics the ‘blanket’ of leaves deposited on deciduous forest floors – suppresses weed growth, improves soil structure and nutrients, moderates soil temperature, and helps hold in moisture.
The volunteers were assisted by the great staff at DPR’s Natural Areas Volunteers program.
We’ve posted more photos of the Earth Day weekend volunteer project to our flickr.
The Trust for Public Land recently published its annual report on urban parkland in the United States. The 2011 City Park Facts lists information for the 100 largest U.S. cities, serving as the nation’s most complete database of park facts.
The report includes data on urban park acreage, spending, staffing, and facilities. breaking down each city in categories such as “Acres of Parkland as Percentage of City Area” and “Total Spending on Parks and Recreation per Resident”. The report also provides snapshot “Top Tens” for the number of certain amenities per capita, like off-leash dog parks and basketball hoops.
Central Park easily maintains its title as the most visited city park in the country, with 35 million visitors per year. Battery Park, established in 1686, is the 7th oldest park in the country. New York City spends $158 per resident on its parks; Washington D.C., the biggest spender, allocates $375 per resident. NYC does not make any of the amenities top ten lists.
The most in-demand activity at last year’s Sneak Peak, by far, was the chance to paddle a canoe around the Freshkills Park site. This year we began a public kayak tour program at the site and will open up our capacity significantly at this year’s Sneak Peak, this Sunday, October 2nd. Visitors will be able to paddle in Fresh Kills Creek and Main Creek, taking in incredible views of the landfill mounds and native wetland habitat. This is a spectacular way to experience the site and its varieties of plant and animal life.
Tours will last 45 minutes and run throughout the duration of the event: 11:15 am, 11:30 am, 11:45 am, 12:15 pm, 12:30 pm, 12:45 pm, 1:15 pm, 1:30 pm, 1:45 pm, 2:15 pm, 2:30 pm and 2:45 pm. Tour capacity is limited, and registration will begin at 11 am, so make sure to get there early if you want to guarantee a seat on a tour! Boaters of all ages and paddling abilities are welcome. Ages 8 and up. No outside kayaks are allowed.
We are deeply grateful to our community partners at Kayak Staten Island, The Downtown Boathouse, and Long Island Community Boathouse, for providing kayaks, water safety instruction and guides for these tours. See the Sneak Peak website for more information about all of the other exciting activities going on throughout the day.
Sunday’s two public kayak tours were a rousing success. Following up on the highly in-demand free paddle in Fresh Kills Creek during last October’s Sneak Peak, these were the first public boating tours we’ve held at the Freshkills Park site. Visitors who joined us for the free tours were able to soak up the sun and take in the spectacular site while paddling Main Creek and Richmond Creek. We’ve posted our photos from the tours to flickr, and we welcome others who took pictures to add them to our flickr group pool.
We’re excited about the enthusiasm people have shown for boating in the site’s creeks. These tours have been incredibly popular — the wait list for the next two tours, on July 10th, is 50 names long! The summer’s final tours will be Sunday, August 14th. Registration is not yet open for them but will be offered first to members of our newsgroup. This year’s Sneak Peak, on October 2nd, will also provide boating opportunities, and we hope to offer more programming like this next year.
These tours would not have been possible without the very generous support of a variety of committed partners: the New York Container Terminal, which donated the shipping container in which our equipment now lives; the Downtown Boathouse, which donated kayaks and life vests; and Kayak Staten Island, which provided kayaks, vests, paddles and water safety instruction and co-led the tours with us. We’re grateful to all of them.
Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, a former civilian and military airport on the Jamaica Bay coast, is now poised to become New York City’s largest campground. The site was taken over by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1971 after being decommissioned for aircraft, and as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area has since played host to a variety of activities: organized sports, model and full-scale airplane hobbyism, motorcycle practice and Brooklyn’s largest community garden. NPS has recently announced a plan to focus on camping at Floyd Bennett, expanding its five campsites by 600 more and making it the largest urban campground in the US. No word yet on the timetable for expansion.