Tag Archives: New York City

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Rehabilitated Park

It can be difficult to be good to ourselves or the environment in a world filled with deadlines and busy shuffling to work, school and appointments. We are lucky though, when we need a break from the rush, to have parks and wildlife areas where we can escape. Parks where one might find some solace, a quiet respite, or simply hear one’s thoughts while cycling or watching campfire embers die down. Awesomely, there are parks where these realities mingle–parks that were once damaged by human negligence, but, through human work and diligence, are now places people can gather to reflect, unwind and enjoy nature. Here are a few rehabilitated parks where hard work paid off!

Fox Point State Park, Delaware

The first rehabilitated park we would like to share is Fox Point. It is a 55-acre state park more than 50 years in the making. The property that the park now occupies was once part of the Delaware River. Through the end of the 1800s and into the mid-1900s, the Pennsylvania Railroad dumped waste and sewage sludge into the river as it sought to increase industrial land along its right-of-way, essentially burying the river for its own benefit. In 1958, however, S. Marston Fox began lobbying to turn the land over to the people of Delaware, and spent the rest of his life carrying that torch.

And what light that torch has thrown! Access to the Delaware River should be for [Image: destateparks.com]

A well-hoisted torch! Access to the Delaware River is important for all. [Image: destateparks.com]

Through decades of legal battles and environmental remediation, Fox Point State Park is open to day-use activities like picnicking, rollerblading, biking, volleyball, and generally taking in the sights of the Delaware River. The hard work poured into Fox’s vision of a “window on the river” is part of the experience today, one can learn about the park’s history and how the property was rehabilitated while taking in views of Philadelphia and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and strolling along that same river that inspired northern Delawareans to rally around Fox’s dream for shared access to nature.

Route 66 State Park, Missouri

Route 66 State Park in Missouri, much like its name suggests, showcases some of the history of the highway that captured imaginations as the “Main Street of America” in the middle of the last century. The park is outfitted with an intact 1935 roadhouse (which serves as its visitor’s center) and stuffed with exhibits that commemorate the roadway that John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road.”

But to only point out the park’s proximity to an historic road misses the heart of its complicated history.

Fish and frogs and fun!

A peaceful pond and landscape with no clear indication of there having been a town here. [Image: www.mostateparks.com]

Beyond its roadhouse and visitor’s center, the 419-acre, day-use park is primarily composed of trails that meander through flatland and swamp where there was once the town of Times Beach. Times Beach was a town established (through a newspaper promotion) in 1925.

Whoa! What a deal! [Image: www.allday.com]

Wow! What a deal! Indeed the boisterous language served to draw the attention of those who might wish to escape the summer heat along the scenic Meramec River. [Image: www.allday.com]

At the end of 1982, a devastating flood drove hundreds from their homes just as dioxin contamination (caused by tainted waste oil which had been distributed on the town’s roads to reduce dust) was confirmed. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended that no one return to inhabit the town, and the federal government and the state of Missouri bought out the land. State and federal agencies immediately set about cleaning up the contamination.

While not downplaying the hardship endured by those families, the sweetness at Route 66 State Park is undeniable—after more than a decade of rehabilitation, the park is not only healthy for human visitors, but the native swamps and attending wildlife have blossomed. Birds and frogs and deer provide a superb backdrop to outdoor recreation, where you can take a long bike ride, or learn about the ways people crossed the continent not even a hundred years ago. And all that adventure and education is just a short jot from St. Louis!

Freshkills Park, Staten Island

When its rehabilitation is complete, Freshkills Park on Staten Island will be nearly three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in a hundred years. An impressive feat of environmental recuperation given that, from 1947 to 2001, Freshkills served New York City and its surrounding metropolitan area as a landfill.

Today, the park is characterized by a sprawl of native grasses and brush, wetlands and gentle blue kills, and sweeping sky views that are unusual in the city. Some of its completed rehabilitated segments, Schmul Park and Owl Hollow Fields, already serve the nearby residents of Staten Island and anyone else who wants to make their way to the island. On special occasions, like the recent Discovery Day, hundreds of acres that are still in development are open to visitors.

All of this within New York City! The view of a "kill," or a small stream or creek, at Freshkills Park. This photograph was taken during Discovery Day, on September 18th, 2016. [Image: Myrrah Dubey]

All of this within New York City, and not a skyscraper in sight! This shows a “kill,” or a small stream or creek, at Freshkills Park. This photograph was taken during Discovery Day, on September 18th, 2016.

Discovery Day speaks to the heart of the space, with free bicycles to borrow, and hour-long Audubon tours to teach guests about the wildlife that has thrived since the landfill was capped and the Park Plan has been implemented. Freshkills Park is a prime example of how a landscape can be brought back from the very brink of pollution, and grow into a green space we all can share and enjoy.

Keep Up the Good Work!

It’s important to reflect on how we interact with the world around us. It’s not always pleasant to think about our actions contributing to pollution, but being honest about it can empower us to make better choices. And, when it comes right down to it, the land that gets reclaimed from the clutches of pollution is just as precious as that which has always been pristine, if only because it speaks to the healing qualities embedded in the determination to make something better for ourselves and future generations.

Even with fall upon us, it’s not too late in the year to volunteer to clean up, or to just take some time for yourself in your favorite park! No better way to find out more about the parks near you than Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, that’ll get you out and on to exploration!

Urban Parks: An Important Resource

We often talk about getting away from it all or heading out to the woods. We emphasize raw nature and the importance of communing with it. We focus on the splendor available to us here in the States and, when we think generally of the parks, we envision something remote and out of the way. But there’s plenty of natural beauty to take in, whether you’re in rural Colorado or a bustling California metropolis. Here are a few urban parks we shouldn’t take for granted.

Warner Parks–Nashville, TN

A tree in the fall at Nashville's Warner Parks one of the lovely urban parks

The open space of the steeplechase at Nashville’s Warner Parks. [Image: www.warnerparks.org/]

Green, open spaces are necessary for the health of a city and its inhabitants. This point is well understood in Nashville where the beautiful Warner Parks serve this purpose for the nearly one million visitors they host annually. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks offer many ways for Nashvillians to get outdoors, including golf courses, hiking, and equestrian trails as well as a handsome, natural space for a picnic or escape from the urban hustle of the Music City.

Central Park–New York City, NY

Central Park is a familiar urban park to most of us, whether one happens to reside in New York City or not. With over 37 million visitors annually, the park harbors Strawberry Fields, Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, a zoo with snow leopards, horse-drawn carriage rides, and activities as extensive and diverse as New York is itself. But it’s also a very cultivated natural space with over 25,000 trees and miles of walking, biking, and jogging paths—as well as paths that lead to pretzels. The original plan, dreamed up by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, has been largely maintained since 1857, despite some periods of neglect, and adapted to the realities of serving as the primary green space on the island of Manhattan.

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park–Jackson, MS

LeFleur's Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com]

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com/]

How often does one get to go camping in the heart of a city? At LeFleur’s Bluff State Park—a 305-acre gem located right in the thick of Jackson, Mississippi—you can do just that. Or you can check out the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science if you’re not too busy unwinding with a fishing rod, supervise your kids while they enjoy the 16,000 square foot Kid Zone Playground, try your hand at the disc golf course, launch a kayak when the weather’s right, or enjoy any of the numerous nature trails the park offers. The multi-functionality and proximity to nature in this park makes it an asset to Jackson, and certainly a destination for visitors to the city.

Topanga State Park–Los Angeles, CA

Everything the light touches... is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org]

Everything the light touches…is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org/]

Topanga State Park is made up of 11,000 rugged, wild, gorgeous, and minimally-developed acres—all located within the city of Los Angeles. It offers well over 30 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders along with backpacking and traditional campsites, many spots with picnicking opportunities and scenic mountain views, and a general escape from the metropolitan airs of L.A.—a city notorious for its smog, gridlock, and sprawl. And while the city is implementing its plan to reduce the environmental issues that plague its populace, Topanga State Park continues to prove to be a necessary open area for city dwellers.

Cities in the United States are built upon industry and hustle, and urban parks give the people who live in cities an opportunity to revel in the benefits of nature and open space, even if most of what surrounds them is man-made. Urban parks, like all of the great and protected natural spaces we enjoy, are entirely relevant and important no matter where we live.

Adventures NYC on June 20th

Adventures NYC at Central Park

Image: nycgovparks.org/highlights/festivals/adventures-nyc

For summertime fun, visit New York City, the city that never sleeps. From parades to Broadway shows, historical tours to urban adventures, NYC offers more options for tourists than any other city. On June 20th, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., NYC Parks invites you to the 11th annual Adventures NYC in Central Park. This FREE event is welcome to all and offers something for everyone.

A Saturday filled with events like log-rolling, hiking, biking, fishing, wheelchair basketball, rock climbing, and fitness classes will not disappoint. Gear professionals will be exhibiting what’s hot right now in outdoor fashion and technology. You won’t want to miss the Stihl® Timbersports® Competition where lumberjacks step their skills up to the next level. This competition celebrates its 30th Anniversary and is sure to be a hit!

The event is located at the Bandshell Area near 72nd street in Central Park. Don’t know where to park? No fear, Adventures NYC offers free bike valet parking at the event so you can be green and walk in like a celebrity.

One of the highlights at this year’s Adventures NYC will be the fishing event. Featuring informative fishing demos by leading bass anglers from Bassmaster Elite Series Anglers, casting contests for teenagers, conservation information, and the chance to be entered to win a fishing trip, this experience is sure to blow you out of the water. The fishing event offers inner city teens from all walks of life a chance to dip their toes into something new, get involved in a fun sport, and talk with the pros about gear lending opportunities and more.

Before you go, don’t forget to download the official New York Fishing and Wildlife Pocket Ranger® app FREE for your phone. This app includes all of the information you need to plan your next outing in New York, including advanced GPS features so you can fish like a pro. The Pocket Ranger® app is your ticket to the great outdoors!

Mark June 20th on your calendar for Adventures NYC! Again, Adventures NYC is a FREE event welcoming friends and families to fun, entertainment, and learning experiences throughout the day, rain or shine. Visit the NYC Parks website for more information and come ready to play!

Urban Escapes pt. 3: New York Hikes

We’re back with urban escapes!  Sometimes we hate driving, and some of us are attached to biking, so a train or bus ride to the outdoors will do. Our four nature spots are near the New York Metro area, and are ideal for day trips—only an hour or two away. It’s time to trade in the urban landscape for endless mountains and trees.

Appalachian Trail

Cat Rocks [Image: www.farm4.static.flickr.com/3043/2564209151_4622a7b461_b.jpg]

First stop on our urban escapes pt. 3: New York Hikes is West Mountain and Nuclear Lake in Pawling, NY. Take the Metro North on the Harlem Valley line, starting from Grand Central Station NY to the Appalachian Trail station, situated on a little wooden platform from a totally different era. The hike begins here. Head westward and follow the white blazes. The hike is entirely on AT. In the beginning you’ll see mostly flat grassy land with some older dover oak trees.  At about 3.7 miles there’s a rocky ledge with great views. Another possibility is heading south along the AT until reaching Nuclear Lake. There’s a grassy area near the lake where you can take lunch. If you’re up for a challenge head to Cats Rock, south of the AT.

Palisades Interstate Park

Image: www.njpalisades.org/images/rossdockCarpentersDrive.jpg

Image: www.njpalisades.org/images/rossdockCarpentersDrive.jpg

With over 30 miles of hiking trails, the Palisades is a great urban escape. In the distance the Palisades cliff, a rare geological formation, begins at the Rahway River in New Jersey. Luckily for New Yorkers, it goes along the Hudson River, passing the George Washington Bridge where the Palisades Interstate Park, New Jersey section starts. Take the 1 train subway (MTA) to 181st St/George Washington Bridge and walk 3 blocks southwest to 178th St and the Hudson River. Walk up the pedestrian ramp and cross the bridge on pedestrian walkway. Take in the scenic views of the city, and after one mile say goodbye! On the side after a short walk and some stairs, you’ll see two diverging trails. One is the Long Path(aqua blaze) which goes along the top of the cliffs, towards Hudson Terrace and into the woods. The Shore Trails (white blaze), outside the Visitor Center at Fort Lee Historic Park, goes through various lookout sites and parks.

Norvin Green State Forest

Image: www.lowmileage.com/2012/2012_05/2012_NorvinGreen/p1140057a.jpg

Image: www.lowmileage.com/2012/2012_05/2012_NorvinGreen/p1140057a.jpg

If you’re looking for more adventure, head to Norvin Green State Forest, home to the largest concentration of trails in New Jersey. Be aware almost all trails are on the difficult side. There are 27 scenic views with crazy names like “Yoo-Hoo Point.” Take the NJ Transit Bus #197, leaving NY’s Port Authority for Wanaque, at West Brook Road & Route 511 only on Saturdays and Sundays. Before going, make sure the bus stops at your station. If not ask for 511 & Skyline Lakes Drive, Citgo station. The stop requires a bit of a walk to the Stonetown Circular Trail (9.4-mile loop, strenuous) and many trails in Norvin Green State Forest (Wyanokies.

Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop Trail

Image: www. daytrippernyc.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/hhruins061409.jpg

Ruins in Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop Trail [Image: www. daytrippernyc.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/hhruins061409.jpg]

Get ready for this rural stop within the Hudson Highlands State Park of Putnam, NY. Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to the Garrison station. There’s a trail leading from the southern end of the parking lot to the trailhead of the hike. Follow the blue-blazed trail east across the field to Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop Trail which is 8 miles long. This mostly isolated area is filled with picturesque grassy landscapes, woodsy areas, crumbling ruins, carriage roads of old estates, viewpoints over the hudson river and the Bear Mountain Bridge. The hike is fairly moderate. Be aware that there are no towns nearby or vending machines—carry plenty of food and drinks. There is also opportunities for short cuts, so adventure away!

For more nearby NY hiking trails head over to the Pocket Ranger® New York State Parks App!

OutdoorFest 2015: 10 Days of Adventure in NYC

A panorama of Lower Manhattan as viewed from the Staten Island Ferry. [Image: commons.wikimedia.org]

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

As one of the most iconic cities in the world, New York City has its perks: a breathtaking skyline, an incredible diversity of culture, arts and fashion, and best of all, the ability to eat anything at any time (regardless of how wise it is to do so). It is a city we at ParksByNature Network know and love because we engage with it every day (our offices are based in Manhattan). But living in an urban jungle also has its disadvantages, especially for those who enjoy nature and the outdoors.

So, can urban residents also be outdoor enthusiasts? Fuggedaboutit! (Translation: Of course!)

Which is why we are very excited to tell you about OutdoorFest 2015!

OutdoorFest is a 10-day festival that brings the outdoors to New York City through hiking, biking, fishing, climbing, and other sports and activities. Not only will you have the opportunity to have fun and get active, you will also solidify your personal connection with the natural world.

Whether you’re a New Yorker or a visitor, come join the festivities from May 29 to June 7! There are plenty of activities for people of all ages and abilities.

Spend the first night of OutdoorFest under the stars and go Camping on Staten Island!

Camping on Staten Island

Image: www.outdoorfest.com

Bring your binoculars and your yoga pants for Bronx Birding & Yoga! Both the morning bird walk and the yoga class are FREE!


Image: www.nycaudubon.org

Are you an avid climber or want to try rock climbing for the first time? Go on a Bouldering Tour in Central Park or take a Learn to Climb Clinic!

Rock Climbing in Central Park

Image: www.outdoorfest.com

Do you want to explore the only freshwater river in New York City and make a positive impact on 4th and 5th grade students? Join an outreach program to take kids Canoeing on the Bronx River!

Canoeing on the Bronx River

Image: www.outdoorfest.com

If you prefer biking, take a Guided Bike Tour up the “Old Put”! For intermediate to advanced cycling enthusiasts, Bike over the George Washing Bridge and up along the Hudson River!

The bridge over the Croton Reservoir is a beautiful highlight of the Day Ride on the Old Put

Image: gothambiketours.com

Looking for nature walks?  Explore Inwood Forest, Manhattan’s last natural forest, or hike the Long Path from GWB to the Adirondacks or learn about Obscure Trails accessible via Public Transit!

Inwood Forest

Image: www.outdoorfest.com

For all the anglers out there, unwind and fish on the Hudson River or the East River!

Fishing on the Hudson River

Image: www.outdoorfest.com

There’s so much more! Check the OutdoorFest 2015 schedule to view all available activities.

And once you’ve tasted what NYC has to offer at OutdoorFest 2015, download our FREE Pocket Ranger® New York State Parks App to discover and explore more places in the metro area and beyond!

Animal Prints, Ranked

Nature produces beautiful works of art. From the awe-inspiring sunsets to the alien-like creatures that swim in our oceans, Mother Nature is the most original artist of them all. In fact, animal prints are so unique, they’ve made their way into mainstream fashion.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 15 animals prints in nature. We ranked the list based on natural beauty and how well the design has impacted the fashion world. Do you agree with our list?

15. Giraffe

animal prints

Image: www.upload.wikimedia.org

Giraffes are some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth, but when it comes to wearing the design, it’s usually a no-go. For some reason, giraffe design never caught on in the mainstream fashion world, which is odd because they resemble cow patterns, but a different color.

14. Deer

animal prints

Image: www.flickr.com/photos/daveward

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: “But Bambi was so cute.” Well, just like all children, once they grow up, looks fade. Of course deer fur is cute, but doesn’t translate well into any other medium.

13. Alligator

animal prints

Image: www.images.1233.tw/alligator-skin

Anything is a sign of luxury when it’s worn for fashion, but these not so gentile giant lizards aren’t necessarily nature’s beauty queens. That’s not to say they’re leathery skin isn’t a sight for sore eyes.

12. White Tiger 

animal prints

Image: www.ecx.images-amazon.com

White tigers are one of the most beautiful animals of all time. Did you know that white tigers are not true albinos? They are just a pigmentation variety of the usual Bengal tiger coat.

11. Leopard                   

animal prints

Image: www.glogster.com

Lots of people mix up leopards and jaguars. Leopard animal prints are less complicated than jaguar animal prints. Jaguar’s fur design consists of larger, less round circles. Leopards sports are golden brown spots inside of black, circular spots.

10. Dalmatian

animal prints

Image: www.etsy.com

We all know one person who would rank Dalmatians number one on this list. Coming in at no. 10 is the most well-known dog print in the world. These precious pooches sure do boast an interesting design for canines.

9. Tiger

animal prints

Image: www.brinvy.biz

Tigers are the largest, and thanks to their orange fur with black stripes, the most recognizable of the cat species.

8. Cheetah

animal prints

Image: www.wallpho.com

Cheetah prints are more clean cut than the previous two animals. The spots are more pronounced and organized.

7. Panther

animal prints

Image: www.thefabricexchange.com

Black is always chic, yet classic. Enough said. 

6. Ladybug

animal prints

Image: www.hdtiger.mobi/ladybug-photos

Not to be outdone, an insect jumps in at no. 6. Ladybugs may be small, but their red and black print makes them one of the most recognizable insects in the world.

5. Cow             

animal prints

Image: www.i.jootix.com

Cows’ signature black blotches make for a sleek design both on clothing and in nature.

4. Peacock

animal prints

Image: www.michael–fitzsimmons.deviantart.com

EVERYONE loves peacocks. Fun Fact: Did you know only males are peacocks, while females are called peahens?

3. Jaguar

animal prints

Image: www.gde-fon.com

Jaguar print comes in at no. 3 on our animal prints list. That’s only because if it’s not worn subtly, it can be considered tacky. But, do you know who wears it perfectly? Jaguars!

2. Zebra

animal prints

Image: www.//th02.deviantart.net

Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes. It was commonly believed they were white with black stripes because their underbellies were white, but now science suggest they are black because that’s their color at their last embryonic stage.

1. Snake

animal prints

Image: www.gallsource.com

Taking the top spot are nature’s slithering serpents. Why? Snake skin designs are the most versatile in the animal kingdom in that they come in all colors and patterns. Snake skin designs are also extremely popular in the fashion world. They have brilliant yellows, bright oranges and even black.


North American Rodents: Our Top 5

They were here long before we were and they’ll be here long after we’re gone. I’m not talking ancient aliens – I’m talking rodents. Despite evoking fear and/or disgust from many, rodents and humans have much in common. Like us, rodents are social animals. Their mating habits sound like our own TV soap operas, complete with monogamy, polygamy, and promiscuity. Also like us, rodents have managed to conquer and thrive on every continent except Antarctica. Really the only difference between rodents and humans is that rodents have a pair of continuously-growing incisors, which requires them to gnaw in order to contain their growth. But if left unchecked (or should we say “un-gnawed”), who knows? They might just grow until their infinite mass rips apart the universe.

Some of the better-known members of Rodentia [image: www.wvmvcd.org]

Some of the better-known members of Rodentia [image: www.wvmvcd.org]

No 5. Chipmunks are the Gatsbys of the forest floor. They live grand solitary lives in vast subterranean mansions accumulating huge stores of chipmunk gold (a.k.a. nuts, seeds and acorns) until its time to surface and search for Daisy. Trees and plants sprout up in places where nuts and acorns have been forgotten. What if all trees in the world today are the result of chipmunks and squirrels with bad memories?

Image: http://giphy.com/

Image: http://giphy.com/

No. 4 The porcupine is the Chicago Bulls of the North American animal scene: a ruthless defensive juggernaut. In addition to their formidable size, which is second only to the beaver in North America, porcupines are covered in modified hairs called quills that can injure and even kill if you step to this. As the Alliance found out in Return of the Jedi, never approach a Death Star when the deflector shield is fully operational. In fact, porcupines are so well prepared that if it falls out of a tree and stabs itself, which apparently happens quite often, their naturally antibiotic skin prevents the wound from becoming infected.

Porcupines and gingerbread, a holiday tradition [image: http://giphy.com/]

Porcupines and gingerbread, a holiday tradition [image: http://giphy.com/]

No. 3 Eastern grey squirrels range from Texas to Canada and have recently colonized England and Scotland. In England, the eastern grey squirrel is outcompeting the native red squirrel population proving that American squirrels are better than European squirrels. One reason for their success is that, like Americans themselves, eastern squirrels have proven to be better at storing fat than their European counterparts. Besides being world conquerers, squirrels are adept deceivers. If a squirrel feels its being watched while storing food, it mimes tossing its acorns into a hole while hiding its victuals in its mouth. Sneaky devils.

This forest needs me [image: http://giphy.com/]

I swear I’m not cold [image: http://giphy.com/]

No. 4 Beavers are ecological architects, the engineers of wetlands, the dreamers of dreams. Their dams improve water quality, create habitat for waterfowl and fish, and provide water and nutrients to nearby vegetation. It is estimated that between 100 and 200 million beaver lived in North America prior to the arrival European settlers. After being hunted nearly to extinction for their valuable fur, beaver numbers have rebounded to a healthy 10 million. They have even moved back into large urban areas like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City.

Beaver dining on a willow shoot [image: http://giphy.com/]

Beaver dining on a willow shoot [image: http://giphy.com/]

No. 5 Rats hardly ever inspire neutrality: you’re either one of those crazy albino rat-loving goth people or you want them all exterminated (the rats, not goths). New York City has been at war with the rats ever since they arrived on the Mayflower. As a sign of humankind’s collective rat angst, people who betray trust are called rats. Why? Because rats are opportunists who do what it takes to survive. And that’s why they’re North America’s number one rodent. Next time you find yourself in a sticky situation where your very own survival is at stake, just ask yourself: WWRD (what would a rat do)?

Rat on a Cat [image: felinecorner.blogspot.com]

Rat on a Cat [image: felinecorner.blogspot.com]

Get out in your backyard or state parks to see the top 5 North American rodents for yourself! And don’t forget to bring these items from our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store:

  • Binoculars
  • Hat
  • Water Bottle