Fresh Kills

Exploring the Former Fresh Kills Landfill via Kayak

By Murray Lantner

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

On a grey, windy and cool day a group of over 20, including EPAers from several Region 2 divisions, including our Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, and their friends and family took to the estuarine inlet within the former Fresh Kills Landfill site for a one-of-a-kind paddling trip. The trip was organized by Maureen Krudner, Regional Green Infrastructure Coordinator and Staten Islander – through the EPA Region 2 Emerging Leaders Network – and was hosted and outfitted by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation which provided kayaks and an amazing guide, Chris, who provided an informal informational tour. We started the trip with a short visit to the NYC Department of Sanitation Visitor’s Center at the former landfill where we learned about the decades-long effort to transform the Fresh Kills landfill into a 2,200 acre city park some three times the size of Central Park.

The plan for the park is to combine state-of-the-art ecological restoration techniques with extraordinary settings for recreation, public art, and facilities for many sports and programs. While nearly 45 percent of the site was once used for landfilling operations, the remainder of the site is currently composed of wetlands, open waterways, and unfilled lowland areas. We also learned that the methane gas that is generated in the landfill is collected, purified and sold to the gas company where it is transmitted to over 20,000 Staten Island homes. This landfill gas collection process not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions by converting methane into fuel but also has generated approximately $3-$5 million a year in revenue for the city over the last decade. The Fresh Kills Park is a great example of how New York City is embracing sustainability, both through mitigation and climate adaptation strategies.

Out on the water, the tides were quite high so the restored Spartina alterniflora or saltmarsh cordgrass was partially submerged and only the tops were visible, and in some cases we could paddle right over it. The city has a nearby nursery that grows plugs of cordgrass for use in salt marsh restoration projects, which did seem to be taking root here – a great sign for the park.

The Fresh Kills landfill paddle was truly a treat – open waters, salt marsh, surrounded by mostly vegetated hill slopes (the former garbage dumps) – making for a surprisingly peaceful and natural experience. This is a fantastic area to explore and, once there, it’s quite easy to forget the past use of the site and to look forward to the fascinating restoration and parkland that is being created on top of the landfill. To help facilitate the park creation process Region 2 ELN raised about $200 that was donated to the Fresh Kills Park Alliance. Thanks again to Maureen, EPA ELN, NYC Parks and Recreation and the NYC Dept. of Sanitation for a wonderful experience, I encourage you all to check out the park, and explore future opportunities for educational adventures along the Fresh Kills.

About the Author: Murray Lantner is an Environmental Engineer in EPA’s Water Compliance Branch who conducts enforcement of wastewater and stormwater permits under the Clean Water Act at EPA’s Manhattan office. Murray has worked for the EPA for 20 years, and started in EPA’s Chicago office. Murray enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and paddling. Murray holds a B.S in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fresh Kills Park: A Kayaking Adventure

By Maureen Krudner

Fresh Kills Park launch site

Fresh Kills Park launch site

What do a great blue heron, Victory Boulevard, mussels anchored in mud below the high tide line and an apartment building have in common?  They can all be seen from a kayak in the waterways of Fresh Kills Park. The tour, organized through NY/NJ Baykeeper and led by the NYC Parks Department,  was an amazing three hour trip through the wetlands, surrounded by rolling hills of former trash, now covered with lush greenery and not a foul odor in the air. We passed a 2.1 acre wetland restoration in progress, where goats were used to clear phragmites and native wetland plantings will soon begin. We spotted an osprey nest; two babies were visible in the nest, but so was blue frayed roped and netting material. Several other birds were seen, including at least 15 snowy egrets and as a special treat, a great blue heron swooped down to grab a bite to eat.

For many years, Fresh Kills was probably the most well known location on Staten Island, housing the largest landfill in the world. In March 2001, the last barge delivered trash to the landfill and an amazing transformation began.

Paddling in Richmond Creek

Paddling in Richmond Creek

The New York City Parks Department now has responsibility for implementing the plan to develop the 2,200 acre park. The new Fresh Kills Park will provide many opportunities for outdoor recreation including kayaking, biking, skating and birding. The park has also been designed to accommodate cultural and educational programs. While completion of the park is expected to take 30 years, some sections are currently open and others will be opened in phases over the coming years. A Sneak Peak is scheduled for September 29, 2013. This promises to be a great event.

For more info visit: http://www.nycgovparks.org/park-features/freshkills-park.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.