Monday, November 26, 2007

Ridgewood Reservoir

The NY Times interviewed Rob Jett, a.k.a. The City Birder, on the subject of development plans for Ridgewood Reservoir:

But the reservoir, which is nestled within Highland Park, is also one of eight areas designated for conversion to parkland under Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to have a park within 10 minutes of every New York residence by 2030.

Mr. Jett does not approve. He is part of a group of more than 50 birders and others who object to the parts of the city plan under which two of the water basins will be preserved but the third, and largest, will be transformed into an “active recreation center,” as the plan puts it. Instead, they want to preserve all the reservoir’s natural habitats and to develop a nature educational facility.

In the opinion of Mr. Jett, the plan seems “counterintuitive” for a city that also intends to plant a million trees over the next decade....

For his part, the parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, said that although the city has allocated $50 million to improve Highland Park and incorporate the Ridgewood Reservoir into it, construction and design plans are not final. “The bulldozers aren’t warming up,” he said.

But Mr. Benepe did say that “some small portion” of the Ridgewood Reservoir area, probably about 30 percent, will be used for recreation. “Any time you build a park, especially in an area that is overgrown, you have to remove some trees,” he said.
Thirty percent hardly seems like a small portion. Benepe justifies the change in land use based on the need for kids to get more exercise. I wonder how much ballfields really contribute to that goal. Facilities like ballfields serve organized recreation, often restricted to leagues that reserve the site. They get used for short periods of time by relatively few kids, and then sit empty - except for the Canada geese that come and poop on them. Parkland development that is sensitive to habitat preservation may end up benefiting more kids in the long run by encouraging exercise outside of organized recreation and by providing an educational resource for local schools.

More information on the site is available at Save Ridgewood Reservoir.