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Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary!

Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Welcome to Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeastern section of world famous Central Park near Central Park South and 5th Avenue.  The sanctuary is an estimated 4 acre rocky upland woodland slope that forms the northern boundary of the artificially created 59th street pond.

59th Street Pond

A tall fence surrounds the forest to the north and west. The western side features a man-made waterfall which falls over Manhattan schist.

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest of Central Park’s three woodlands.  Formerly known as the Promontory, it was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett, Jr. Hallett was a well known NYC civic leader and nature lover.  The land which became the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was declared a bird sanctuary and formally closed to the general public in 1934.

The preserve served as a living experiment to see how 4 acres of woodland would ecologically function  in the United State’s most populated city.  The results of the experiment were less than encouraging.  All four layers of the forest (the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers) were found to be under onslaught from invasive plants including:

Wisteria has been shown to strangle and leave deep indentations on plants it grasps as shown in the picture listed below.

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub after removal


Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail

On occasion, the Central Park Conservancy holds tours of the 59th Street pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. This is the only way the general public may access the sanctuary for the entrance (located near Wollman’s Rink in the extreme northern section of the preserve) is chain locked.

Chained locked entrance to Hallett Nature Sanctuary

A short log lined woodchip trail, which was created circa 2003 by local volunteers encircles the sanctuary on its western border.  The land is too rocky and steep for a trail to exist on the eastern side.  The woodchip trail helps water to absorb more easier into the ground preventing erosion on the steep sections of the sanctuary.  In the growing season (spring & summer) as you walk the trail and listen to the tour guide it is hard to believe that you are feet away from Central Park South.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

The highlight of the tour is discovering the source of the waterfall located on the western border that empties into the pond. Visitors walking by may think the waterfall is generated by a natural spring. The real source is man-made; a hose that turns the waterfall on and off.


Flora in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary includes the below among others:


Many species of birds find a home in Hallett Nature Sanctuary including:

Notable mammals include:

There have been at least two visits by Coyotes in the past five years. Click here for a video of a coyote crossing ice on the pond in 2010. Other species include:

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Black-Crowned Night-Heron



Box Turtle

Box Turtle

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuaryIt is worth taking a Central Park Conservancy led tour of this cool preserve in the middle of NYC. Click here for tour contact information.

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!


Ridgefield Nature Center and Community Garden!

Ridgefield Nature Center 34 Years of Preservation

The Ridgefield Nature center consists of 5.4 acres of deciduous wooded wetlands and upland.

Ridgefield Nature Center

The nature center is only open on Saturdays to the public from 8AM-Noon.

Ridgefield Nature Center Trail

The interpretive trail is wide and  lined with old tree trunks. There are more than 25 educational signage covering everything from Pokeweed (as listed in the picture below) to Sassafras Trees.

Pokeweed with Educational Signage

Sassafras Leaves

Given the woods location on the Atlantic Flyway, many species of birds ranging from Red-winged Blackbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch and other species are found here. A unique nonnative bird that can be found in the woods is the Monk Parakeet.

One of the more unique trees found at Ridgefield Nature Center is the American Persimmon tree. The tree is thought to be growing here at its extreme northern limit. The tree is found generally in the south. The bark of the Persimmon tree resembles alligator skin.

The day I visited the nature center this gigantic old mushroom was found and was on display.


The forest is surrounded by dense residential development to the north, south and west of the property. To the east of the forest is the Ridgefield Community Garden.

Ridgefield Community Garden

The garden is open for local residents to plant veggies or establish a butterfly garden. Wolf Creek flows to the east of the gardens and includes an estimated .58 of an acre of wetlands. The creek is a tribute of Bellmans Creek, a major lower Hackensack River Tributary.  Both the community garden and Ridgefield Nature Center were once owned by the Great Bear Company which used the property to distribute bottled water. The Borough of Ridgefield purchased the combined 12 acres of the community garden and Ridgefield Nature Center land in 1975.

The woods are open to the public on Saturdays from 8am to Noon. Group Tours can be made by appointment by calling 201-943-5215 x353. The community garden is accessible to the public at any time during the day.  Click here for more information regarding the Ridgefield Nature Center. The nature center is maintained by members of the Ridgefield Environmental Commission.

Ridgefield Nature Center and Community Garden

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

DeKorte Park!

NJ Meadowlands Commission Richard W. Dekorte Park

DeKorte Park is an amazing environmental story. The 110 acre park is a former landfill that has been given a second chance and features trails, butterfly garden, observatory and an environmental education center.

Marsh View Pavillion


Near the Environmental Education center is the Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz Memorial Butterfly Garden. The garden is named after the youngest crew member of TWA Flight 800 which crashed off of Long Island in July of 1996. The centerpiece of the gardens is a bird bath hand carved to look like a sunflower.

American Goldfinch (NJ’s State Bird!) in the Sunflower Bird Bath

After I visited the butterfly garden, I took a stroll to the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve.

Trail Head for Transco Trail and Lyndhurst Nature Reserve

The Lyndhurst Nature Reserve is a 3 1/2 acre island that is made entirely out of old garbage that was illegally dumped between 1969-1971.  The island is now a nature preserve covered with native grassland meadows and young woodlands. The island is surrounded by mudflats.

Black Eye Susans

Ancient Atlantic White Cedar

The mudflats surrounding the reserve at one time contained an extensive Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. Due to factors such as the construction of the Oradell dam to create the Oradell Reservoir in 1921 the water became too brackish for Atlantic White Cedar to survive. Today there are only ancient stumps remaining of the once extensive forest.

Transco Trail

After leaving the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve, I took the eastern portion of the Transco trail which is roughly 3/4 of a mile in length.  The trail is built on a dike constructed in 1950 which contains a buried natural gas pipeline. Some flora along the trail includes Thistle, Milkweed and Pokeweed. Check out below for some pictures of the fauna found nearby.

Great Egret

Forster Terns

I also walked the Kingsland Overlook which offers view of the surrounding Kingsland Impoundment. The overlook was once a productive salt marsh which was turned into a dump. The former dump was turned into a park for wildlife starting in 1989. The landfill was capped with 400,000 recycled plastic soda bottles and covered with top soil. Thousands of plugs and 20 foot trees were planted. A dike was built to prevent leachate from going into the impoundment. The area is now maturing and many animals make the park their home.
DeKorte Park offers hope for all blighted areas. It is living proof that brownfields really can become greenfields with enough effort.

For more information and the official website click here. You can also check out the Meadowlands blog.

Still thirsty for more Meadowlands information and its amazing environmental comeback?? Don’t miss Jim Wright of the Meadowlands Commission’s new book “The Nature of the Meadowlands“!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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