Sunday, August 10, 2008

Our NYC Parks, Staten Island Native Plant Demonstration Garden

I started my day bright and early to make the trek, finally, to the Native Plant Demonstration Garden in Staten Island's Greenbelt Park System. For me, getting to the Greenbelt is a journey comprised of the F train to the R train, the R to South Ferry, pick up the Staten Island Ferry, at St. George, take the S62 bus to Richmond Ave., and then transfer to the S44. Take this to Travis and, finally, I am there. I got to the ferry at 10:45 am, took the 11am ferry, arriving at St. George at 11:25am, just in time to pick up the S62 at 11:30am. The bus trip took 45 minutes from the ferry terminal.
S62 via Victory Blvd., St. George Terminal

S44 at Richmond Ave. and Victory Blvd.

What you see when you get of at Travis stop (Draper Pl.)

All said, it was really no big deal. I was surprised at how many tourists were riding the ferry back and forth. One told me it was because it was free. I assume it is also for the view of the Statue of Liberty (everyone was on the west side of the ferry). So the bus was empty at the terminal and I scoped out the neighborhoods of Victory Blvd. while making my way to the garden.

So it was with enormous disappointment that I arrived at the Native Plant Demonstration Garden only to find it poorly marked and apparently closed.

CLOSED! I travel all this way on a sunny summer weekend and the Native Plant Demonstration Garden is CLOSED! With no explanation! NO NOTHIN. Finally I find this sign on a house that appears to be a part of the park.

Can you read the handwritten closed sign? Apparently this is the entrance, locked gate says it all.

Frustrated, I walk down Travis about 100 feet or so and I see the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge Parks sign. But I think it looks a little seedy (please allow me this) as there is an SUV parked in the drive and a man loitering about. Makes me think this is not the place to be, maybe he's got a meeting or something.

Poorly maintained entrance to the W.T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. Creepy guy loitering.

So, I am annoyed that I traveled so far but had little to show for it.
Some thoughts, then for NYC Parks:

I feel as if these two Staten Island NYC Parks locations have the aura of an afterthought. They do not feel tied in to the infrastructure of the city. A significant entrance that welcomes visitors would help. Why not tie the W.T. Davis Wildlife Refuge to the Native Plant Demonstration Garden so NYers do not have to walk down a side street and enter the creepy entrance. Is the wildlife of NYC not connected deeply to its native plants?
I will add that NYC Parks, if it wants to encourage visitors to the Native Plant Demonstration Garden, might consider opening on weekends in summer. A NYer automatically figures all NYC Parks to be public and open on weekends in summer. Come on! Especially, especially, if Parks wants to encourage visitors from all boroughs to learn about and plant NYC natives.

I offer you their press release:

Visitors to the new Demonstration Garden encounter 275 different species of native plants, including black-eyed Susan, bee-balm, native azaleas, and goldenrod, arranged in four different theme gardens and two greenhouses. Each garden features native plants in a different simulated native environment. A cottage garden presents foliage around a house, a butterfly garden attracts seasonal insect visitors, a vegetable garden is filled with green and edible treats, and a colonial garden displays an assortment of plants that might have looked familiar to early American settlers. Two new gardens - a meadow garden and a streamside garden - will be constructed soon. These gardens give visitors an opportunity to learn about the benefits associated with these plants, and how to best cultivate and nurture this native foliage in their own home and community gardens.



  1. How dissapointing. I had never heard of the Native Plant Demonstration garden before. I was really excited to see pictures. I am a Brooklyn native living in the desert of California. Although I have not lived in New York for a long while I do try and visit interesting botanical related places when I do come to NYC.

    While I was there in June of this year I took the time to take a three hour bike tour of Central Park. It was amazing. I can't believe the things I took for granted when I lived there.

  2. There are so many things to see, it takes me years to get to the places on my list!


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...