2014-02-28 / Columnists

Go Parks!

Wild Beauty and Adventure on Staten Island
By Steve Cain


The High Rock Challenge. Photos by Dorothy Reilly, Greenbelt Conservancy. The High Rock Challenge. Photos by Dorothy Reilly, Greenbelt Conservancy. If you haven’t been to the Greenbelt in Staten Island, you don’t know what you’re missing. And even if you have been to some of its major parks, its golf course and driving range, or parts of the wetlands and forest all along its 2,800 acres, chances are you still haven’t seen it all.

With over 35 miles of well-maintained trails, the Greenbelt is truly a park for all people and a paradise for hikers and trail runners, welcoming everyone from the beginner to the most experienced. Our team of highly-trained environmental educators lead regularly-scheduled free hikes.

Right now the forest, whether glistening with rain or wrapped in a snowy blanket of tranquility, sparkles as you breathe in the clean chilled air.

Come spring, the leaves return in brilliant neon shades of green, while woodland flowers — blood root azaleas, lily of the valley — adorn the forest understory. Try it for a day trip next time you want to head out for wild beauty and adventure right here in the city.


Along the Greenbelt. Along the Greenbelt. High Rock Park alone contains six walking trails, five ponds and wetlands, including Walker Pond and Loosestrife Swamp. Some trails are level and easy to navigate, while others, such as the Blue Trail which ascends Todt Hill, is a challenge. Also at High Rock, visitors can climb Mount Moses, a 260-foot hill. Its 360-degree panoramic view is one of the most spectacular in New York City.

Before you set out, stop by the Greenbelt Nature Center at 700 Rockland Avenue, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building located about a mile from beautiful High Rock Park, for advice and a map. Each week, the Nature Center offers a wide variety of public programs to assist you in exploring the natural world. Programs include early childhood education, nature hikes, citizen science and learning through interactive exhibits. Say hello to our resident wildlife, including our Eastern Box turtle and a snake.

The Greenbelt Trail Running Series includes races throughout the year and welcomes highly competitive athletes, as well as weekend warriors or firsttime trail runners.

In March, join us for free clinics and training runs in the Greenbelt throughout the month to help athletes prepare for our signature trail race, the annual High Rock Challenge Adventure Race. Teams of two run a 10k trail course sprinkled with “mystery challenges” that test physical and mental strength. The “Challenge” itself takes place on Saturday, April 26th.

On Wednesday, April 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., it’s the Greenbelt Easter Fest at the Greenbelt Recreation Center, with activities including face painting, Easter crafts, egg coloring, games, a special appearance by Peter Rabbit and friends, and, of course, a “Search for the Golden Egg.”

On the first Saturday in May, the Carousel for All Children, located within the Greenbelt in beautiful Willowbrook Park, opens for the season, featuring artfully handcrafted horses from a bygone era for you to enjoy.

Bring the entire family for a ride and refreshments, including ice cream and warm pretzels, and enjoy a stroll around lovely Willowbrook Lake.

If you’re looking for volunteer or internship opportunities, you can work alongside the naturalists and forest restoration technicians of our Natural Resources Group.

There are multiple volunteer projects each month where you can learn about native and non-native plant species, how to re-engineer a trail, or help implement new green infrastructure methods to reduce erosion and flooding. For more information about this fantastic urban oasis in Staten Island, go to www.nyc.gov/- parks and search Greenbelt.

Go Park! Go Staten Island!

Steve Cain is Greenbelt Park Administrator for NYC Parks and Executive Director of the Greenbelt Conservancy.

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