10 Things to Know About the Central Park Hallett Nature Sanctuary before visiting.

Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary opened to the public this past spring officially, for the first time since 1934.

1.  Brief History

The area of the park was preserved decades ago by former NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. It was restored as a bird sanctuary in the 1980s, with the intent that it would develop naturally and maintain itself. It didn’t. Instead, the invasive vine wisteria took over the area and began suffocating the native trees.

The Central Park Conservancy’s gardeners and volunteers have been working for years to weed, plant and build walking trails through the closed-off area so the public can finally enjoy its beauty.

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2.  The Forbidden Gate is Made From Old Trees

If the thought of an 83-year-old area of the park reopening doesn’t instantly intrigue you, the sight of this gate will. This intricately wound gate leads the way into the sanctuary, which was once blocked off from the public by a metal fence. The entire gate was crafted out of wood from trees that once stood tall around Central Park. It was designed and pieced together in May by the Conservancy’s rustic crew.


3. The Benches and Trail Barriers are, too

Benches and trail barriers with the same fancy design as the entrance gate can also be found throughout the path. Atop the highest part of the sanctuary sits this rustic bench, a circular rotation of five benches connected around a tree. The wood, mostly from black locust trees, was chosen for its ability to resist decay.


4. Signs of the City Still Poke Through
You can easily forget you’re in the city while inside the sanctuary, let alone still in Central Park. But, don’t forget to look up while you walk through. You can see Upper East Side and Central Park South rooftops poking through the trees, reminding you that you’re still in Manhattan.


5. NYC School Kids Helped Lay Down the Trail

You can thank New York City’s high schoolers (and the Central Park Conservancy) for sprucing up the forgotten area. Students involved in the park’s semester-long ecological restoration program ROOTS helped build and define paths that wind through the sanctuary. Almost 600 students involved in the program help manage and maintain Central Park’s rustic trails and also helped remove invasive plants from the sanctuary, the Ramble and North Woods.


6. It’s Home to One of Central Park’s Best Views

It may not be the highest peak in Central Park, but it’s still home to one of the best views of the city that the park has to offer. Follow the trail toward the rustic bench and you’ll find yourself looking down upon the pond that wraps around the preserve.
The best part? Look up and you’ll take in a skyline view above the treetops.


7. The Waterfall Flows With a Little Help From the Park Crew

On your way out of the sanctuary, there’s a waterfall just off the path that’s nearly hidden — don’t miss it! Flowing into the pond below, the conservancy hid pumps within the rocks to create the water feature. The rocks themselves have been in place for thousands of years.


8. Animals Take Refuge From the City Streets
Fish, ducks, birds, gray squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, woodchucks and snapping turtles call the sanctuary and the nearby pond home. There are actually even more birds and animals taking refuge in the area now than before the gardeners stepped in.
Now that they have restored diversity in the plant material, it has helped bring the animals back.


9. May is One of the Best Months to Go For a Stroll

Hundreds of azaleas are in full bloom throughout the trail in mid-May, making it one of the best times to visit. Wildflowers continue to bloom through the summer.


10. There’s Minor Concern About How Humans Will Impact the Area

How will opening this wilderness to the public affect its development? The Central Park Conservancy isn’t sure yet. As long as visitors stay on the trail and respect the plants, the area should be able to remain open for nature lovers without concern. Although it has already become an incredibly popular spot for tourists and locals alike, the park is taking precautions to limit the human impact.


The park will only be open four days a week from July 1 through Aug. 31. This gives the park crew three days to recoup per week, weeding and tending to the area after it’s disturbed by the public. A “good balance of maintenance and public use” will keep the area in good shape. Only 20 people at a time are allowed in. There are a host of volunteers to greet and guide you, as well as to answer questions about the sanctuary.


For more information, please visit: http://www.centralpark.com/guide/attractions/hallett-nature-sanctuary.html

Thank you to AMNewYork.com for their Secrets of New York column.


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