New York City: Travel and Exploring a Sense of Place

I was expecting concrete jungle in New York City. Place and how people manage it is one of the great adventures in New York City. One surprise for me was the space given to the natural environment. I didn’t often think of NYC being a coastal town. Until I was there.

New York City Exploring Urban Outdoors Space

Since every movie or show set in NYC I’ve ever watched has scenes on the Upper Bay or on one of the rivers, I should’ve known. The smell of salt air and the cacophony of seagulls is as characteristic of the Big Apple as the subway system.

The Welikia Project (click here) shows river mouths and saltwater marshes that would naturally be here. Superimposing the history of Dutch then British settlements onto pre-European America, you can imagine something like Settlers of Catan. But a look at Google Earth will surprise you how much green remains …or is restored.

Look out train windows and browse along neighborhood sidewalks. It the many, many areas dedicated to the outdoors, recreation, and nature throughout the city will surprise you. Everywhere there are urban gardens: in railway right-of-ways, side yards, on rooftops.

Maybe the High Line, an elevated railway like Chicago’s ‘L,’ is the most unusual. Now decommissioned, it became a rails-to-trails park and recreation pathway above Manhattan between West 30th and 34th.

And of course, I yet to mention Central Park. Some 843 green acres blocked off in the midst of Manhattan. It’s inspiring that so much nature in the heart of one of the US’ largest cities is historically preserved.

In all, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation manages 30,000 acres, including 15 nature centers, 14 miles of beaches, and 2,600,000 trees.

A decade ago, my naturalist friend told me that even while advocating for preservation, we must appreciate the nature we have. As I wandered through NYC nature, I found that no small consolation.

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