By Marjorie Cohen
The seventh in our 7 Walks in 7 Days around the Upper West Side goes off the beaten path.
Forever Wild, Riverside Park at 120th Street
Who knew? Riverside Park has 60 acres of forest. Walk on the promenade up to 120th Street or go down the steps into the park across from Riverside Church and, about halfway up (or down) the stairs you’ll see a sign that says Forever Wild. This is one of several Forever Wild sites in all five boroughs that are part of the parks Departments’ effort “to protect and preserve the most ecologically valuable lands left in NYC.
Go just a few minutes down the path and really and truly you’ll feel just like you’re back at summer camp and on a hike.
And remember all of those goats that got so much publicity last summer–the ones that were grazing along the impossibly steep hills of the Park? Those goats were there to help to clear some of the invasive species of plants out of the Forever Wild piece of the park. Apparently goats will eat absolutely any and everything, including the poison ivy that had taken root along the paths.
The area is a birder’s paradise, particularly during the spring and fall migration seasons. In more normal times, the Riverside Park Conservancy offers bird walks through the Forever Wild woods, but not this spring. Hopefully again in the fall?
Birders are an enthusiastic bunch and you can just imagine how excited they got when a bald eagle was sighted right near the Forever Wild woodlands this past January. This is a pretty unusual event, so for the few days the eagle spent flying over the Park, it became an avian sensation and made the nightly news on all of the major TV networks (and West Side Rag of course). It may not have been quite as thrilling as a bald eagle sighting, but in February of 2019 an excited birder, walking in the woodlands, tweeted out an alert: “an evening grosbeak was sighted at 1:14 pm.”
Take your binoculars when you head out on this walk. Even Covid can’t stop those grosbeaks!
I know about the 60 acres and I know a lot more about Riverside Park because I wrote the book, The ABCs of Riverside Park. It looks like a children’s book but it’s also a guide to the park for anyone of any age. It’s available at http://www.LynasPress.com.
This area is not just a paradise for bird watchers but also for dog owners to let their pets run free and off leash at any time of the day.
No, but beware of telling any of them that to please leash their dog.
And what is also not widely known it that anyone who wants to donate to help keep Central Park beautiful can endow one of the 19,000 trees in the park, each one of which is identified and numbered in their database! This funding opportunity is not widely publicized, but the Women’s Committee installs a TREE TRUST PAVING STONE at the end of the literary walk with the wording that you choose for your tribute.