In my quest for good local hikes around Manhattan, I asked resident expert and new hatan Max Davis for some ideas. Max suggested I check out a wildlife refuge on an island off of the A-Train. As a longtime rider of the A-Train, I was skeptical about the existence of such an environmental oasis in New York but sure enough waaay down the line – the stop past JFK Airport – is the small town of Broad Channel home of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
With the few days off I have at my disposal I thought the Fourth of July would be a perfect time to go exploring. So what does a “Wildlife Refuge” look like NYC style? Pretty much everything you’d expect.
(Pics in the post below)
If you’re interested in taking the Subway, keep in mind there is about a 1/2 mile walk through the town of Broad Channel (the directions are pretty simple). It’s a simple enough town, somewhat reminiscent of a smaller Elizabeth NJ. Nothing of particular note here other than a church district, a few stunning houses, and one which has (or had) three pet ducks.
The Refuge itself looks like any other national park complete with an impressively immaculate visitors center.
Here they hand out helpful information like what not to do on the trail (no veering off, no bike riding, no eating, no feeding animals, no eating animals etc), which trails were off limits, and what to do in case of tick bites.
However the highlight of the visitor center for me were the illuminating personal reflections of a New York High School student. In a prominently displayed one-page essay, a student in Advanced Marine Biology at Beach Channel High School elloquently recalls her experience at “Bored Channel”:
This trip was really fun because of the variety of animals such as birds, trees, plants and a variety of habitats…I also learned a lot of things from this trip such as the structure of a tick and that they give you lime disease and also how poison Ivy looks like. The most interesting part was saving the Horsehoe craps and the part I fill.
I’m not sure what I find more amusing/depressing – that an Advanced Marine Biology HS student actually writes like this, or that someone decided to put this essay on display. Perhaps the refuge is not on good terms with the school after a Horsehoe craps incident and students coming down with lime disease….
The trail itself is a pleasant and scenic enough walk, especially for New York. The term “wildlife refuge” may be overstated unless your idea of “wildlife refuge” consists primarily of glorified birdhouses and lots of geese. Still, it was nice to see someone finally taking on the cause of the endangered Spotted Yellow Firehydrant, shown here in its natural habitat:
Seriously though I was surprised to learn that prickly pear cactus is actually indigineous to New York:
Here are some of the better shots I took along the path:
I should I add I have a greater appreciation for anyone who can photograph birds well.
Some of the foliage on the trail:
And of course the geese. Note the skyline in the background in some of the shots, which would no doubt look more impressive on a less hazy day.
Finally, one of the many birdhouses, this one having actual birds around them.
Until next time…