Sunday, August 17, 2008

Plan B: Greenbelt Nature Center

Because the Native Plant Demonstration Garden was closed, I decided to head for the fairly new Greenbelt Nature Center. To get there from the S44 Travis Avenue stop, I walked up East on Travis about 300 yards or so and picked up the S61 toward St. George.
I take this about a mile (I could've walked) to Rockland Ave. I got off the bus and realized that where I needed to go is without sidewalks and the traffic heavy, constant, and not at all used to pedestrians. Plus, there's no shoulders on the road. Way to welcome your park visitors, S.I. To boot, there were no signs for the Nature Center from the direction I was coming. I knew I needed to walk east, but didn't like that feeling of uneasiness as I travel in traffic to an unknown place. Staten Island is largely a car owner's borough. It is designed around this. After the brief, but hairy, walk I arrived at the well-groomed Nature Center.

I ate lunch, used the rather clean, un-NYC Parks-like bathroom, and looked around the center. The place is definitely built around children and I might add there were virtually no adults without children (there was a child's birthday party going on). There was information about the local fauna and flora, including an Asian Longhorn Beetle display.
The Asian Longhorn Beetle Display
The park trails were empty, almost eerily so. It was a rather nice summer weekend and no one was taking a hike. Maybe everyone wanted the beach or something?

Patches of fern are found trail-side.
The woods reminded me somewhat of the woods I grew up with, but with stands of hardwoods that didn't grow in Suffolk County. There was the smooth, gray bark of the Beech tree, the similarly smooth gray of young Tulip Poplars, mighty large Maples, stands of Oaks, and Sassafras too. Sassafras grew in the woods around my childhood home and some leaves emit a strong lemon scent when you tear them. No worries Parks, this Sassafras I left alone.

Bark of the Beech tree and Sassafras leaves
There were patches of ferns amongst the trees, glacial erratic boulders with moss, and grass along the trail.

Glacial erratics in the trail bed and a mystery grass
The trails were familiar in the way that they never seem to give in to the plants, hard and easily traveled with sneakers. Less mosquitoes than I would have expected as well, really very little bugging me. There was, however, a good dose of poison ivy along the trail -so beware.

Poison Ivy growing up a trail-side tree.
The trails I walked seemed great for mountain biking, but this is either not allowed or contentious in the Greenbelt system (or all NYC parks?) for the obvious reasons of slow moving hikers/fast moving bikers, trail erosion, and forest degradation. Some mountain bikers are working to change this, but until then, keep the bikes at home.

Erosion along the blue trail
After a round on parts of the blue, white, and red trails (how patriotic), I decided to head for the bus, rain was on its way. By the time I traversed the shoulder-less road back to the bus stop, it was raining lightly. In 5 minutes I picked up the S61 -a straight shot to St. George and its ferry terminal where I just made the 3pm ferry.

On the way back I got a good look at those Olafur Eliasson waterfalls.

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