Randall’s Island is a park in sections. I visited the island on a rainy morning in April. I was surprised, upon entering the park, to see how much of it was not actually parklands. The island has a wastewater treatment plant, a fire academy, a psychiatric center, a shelter, and a few other buildings. Along the edges there are gardens and wetlands, and on the inside are soccer fields, tennis courts, a stadium, baseball diamonds, and a golf course.
I walked along the southern edge of the island. The path is multi-purpose allowing for both walkers and cyclers to use it. It’s edged with pretty gardens, including one section that is a native plant garden. This is a great conservational move because native plants need less maintenance than non-native plants and do not promote the spreading of invasive species. This does make me wish that all of the gardens on the island used native plants.
Just a few feet from the path is the East River. There are no protections to stop the river from flooding the island in the event of a storm, but the grass strip between the path and the river does help prevent runoff from entering into the water. The northern end of the island, which I didn’t have a chance to explore, has even more protective elements. That section of the park is home to salt marshes and freshwater wetlands. Both of these natural areas work as barriers between the developed sections of the park and the river during floods or storm surges by soaking up the excess water and releasing it slowly. They also help to stop erosion and offer food and sanctuary for birds.
The Randall’s Island Park Alliance has raised over $16 million to restore and develop the natural areas of the park. They first worked on restoring the salt marsh and freshwater wetland; later they repaired a seawall, planted another salt marsh and helped create a second growth forest.
Another cool feature of the island is the Urban Farm. Only an acre large, the farm produces organic fruits and vegetables and uses a wide variety of growing methods. Some food found at the farm includes: rice, kale, leek, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and corn. There’s also a chicken coop. Even a farm as small as this one is great in this changing ecological world. An urban farm helps, in a small way, reduce the city’s ecological footprint.
Though the majority of Randall’s Island is likely to be flooded in the case of an extreme weather event and rising tides would severely decrease the acreage of the island, I believe Randall’s Island is doing its best to fight the effects of climate change. They regularly look for volunteers to help get rid of invasive plant species, plant native trees, and get rid of trash. The restoration of coastal marshes goes a long way to helping prevent runoff and erosion from hurting both the park and the river.
From an island in the East River to a park alongside the Hudson, in the next post I cross Manhattan to visit Riverside Park.