Riverside Park, located next to the Hudson River and stretching 4 miles, is a beautiful park though the day I was there it was raining. It wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been. The park is a bit unusual seeing as the West Side Highway splits it into two parts. On one side is the forest, with lots of paths and fields for sports. The other side has a trail that runs along the Hudson. I got a chance to explore both of them.
The park has lots of diverse elements to it, which attract lots of different people. There are many sports areas including those for basketball, soccer, baseball, tennis, and skateboarding. The park has a large marina and during the spring and summer one can rent kayaks. There is a play area for children and many historical monuments. One interesting monument is actually a part of the National Parks System. Grant’s Tomb is a beautiful memorial and historically important.
An interesting section of the park is the Woodland Restoration area. First, I want to point out a bit of confusion. In the park there was a sign that said “Forever Wild”. This is a program from the NYC Parks system to protect and preserve ecosystems in the city. Though on the map of Forever Wild areas Riverside Park is included, it is not listed as a location of the initiative in other sections of the website. Whether or not the restoration done in Riverside Park is a part of Forever Wild project, the work done is very important. The original trees planted in this area had grown very tall and formed a lush canopy. Underneath this canopy, non-native plants had spread and taken over the landscape. Volunteers have started to remove invasive trees, put down compost, and created a berm – a strip of land bordering a river – that has an erosion cloth, to slow runoff. Native grasses and perennials were then planted. Finally, the canopy has been pruned to allow for more sunlight to reach the newly planted flora.
There are limited access points to the trail, called Cherry Walk, but it is definitely worth taking a walk along. Be careful though – I was strolling along the path and paused for a second and got yelled at by one of the bikers. The trail is located right next to the Hudson River, with hardly any space between the path and the water. One part of the trail does have a fence protecting it from the riverbank, but on other parts you can step off the trail and put your feet in the water. (Though swimming in the Hudson is legal, I would not dare to do that, at least not in the weather that I experienced while walking along the trail.) On the other side of the trail is the West Side Highway. With how close the trail is to the river, I expect that many parts of the trail would be vulnerable to sea level rise. The rest of the park would be protected from any changes in sea level because it was built on top of retaining walls. Still any change to the park would be a great loss to the city since the park is one of eight scenic landmarks in NYC, according to the NYC Parks Department.
While I was walking along the trail I saw an interesting sign. I just glanced at it, but as far as I could tell it was asking for money to build new bathrooms. When I investigated online I found out it was a part of the Green Outlook (GO) initiative, which wants to build a rest area alongside the red clay tennis courts in an abandoned parking lot. This facility would be a sustainable maintenance building, and would include a wildflower meadow on the roof and a carbon-neutral public restroom which would have composting toilets, use solar energy, rainwater, and recycled materials. The compost would be used to fertilize the meadow. I think this initiative is great. Creating sustainable buildings makes people think about climate change during times when they usually wouldn’t. The building is also a great example of how other urban buildings, outside of parks, can be sustainably designed.