Go Hiking over 150 Tons of Waste
Hiking over 150 tons of waste? Birdwatching in what used to be the world's largest landfill? Through Freshkills may connote piles of urban garbage and 9/11 debris, this ex-landfill is undergoing an extreme transformation into New York City's second largest park. Now, muskrats leave tracks in the wetlands and bald eagles have been spotted lounging in the cottonwoods. Kayakers mingle with terrapins in the main creek, and birdwatchers hike through the grasslands in search of nests.
How did Freshkills undergo such a radical makeover? Transformation from literal wasteland to parkland started in 2001, when Freshkills Landfill officially closed in the spring (though it briefly re-opened after September 11th, to receive waste from the World Trade Center site). That same year, the Department of City Planning drafted an ambitious master plan detailing the landfill’s complete makeover. Thanks to an innovative capping system, all the waste is safely sealed in four mounds that are completely isolated from the environment. Layers of soil and vegetation coat the mounds, while non-landfill areas such as the wetlands are being restored to their original salt marsh state.
When fully complete in 2036, this park will have extensive mountain biking and hiking trails, a boat launch, bird-watching towers, an amphitheatre, and even public art. In the meantime, progress on the park is in full swing. The wetlands are returning, native species (even coyotes!) are coming back, and the park offers all types of adventures, from cross-country skiing to boating, from trail races to educational tours.
Check out some of the awesome activities going on in the park this spring, and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll even spot a muskrat or a bald eagle!