Randalls Island Park Alliance

Opportunity Knocks

In New Ideas and Expansions, Water's Edge Garden, White Garden on March 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

profile-1110By Phyllis Odessey

I am a big believer in turning a crisis into an opportunity.  This might seem Pollyannaish, but a little bit of optimism goes a long way in the field of horticulture, where disappointment, disease and destruction are part of the game.  Hurricane Sandy was no different.  For those of us who are charged with overseeing and caring for water’s edge gardens; we were challenged.
Rebecca McMackin, Park Horticulturist for Brooklyn Bridge Park, took the initiative and organized a meeting for horticulturists and operational staff, who work in local waterfront  parks.  The objective was to  discuss the horticultural and operational Me and lawnmowerstrategies employed  for dealing with Sandy, as well as to collect data and put together a list of best practices for future storms.  Rebecca called  our group,  The Consortium of Coastal Parks.  This meeting of the minds was composed of principles from Battery Park City, Battery Park Conservancy, New York City Parks Department, Governors Island, Hudson River Park, Randall’s Island, and a few “call in” guests from the Rose Kennedy Greenway in MA, as well as a Professor of Geography, Dr. Rutherford Platt from the University of MA.,

All these parks have in common a water’s edge.  We exchanged and compared notes on approaches to remediation.  Who did what?  This ranged from flushing soil to humic acid to gypsum.  Of course, most importantly, soil testing.


I felt like the odd man out.  At Randall’s we took a different approach.  Our first priority was to clear pathways and gardens of fallen trees and branches.  Second was to clean the line of debris left by  water washing over the seawall three times.  With over 5 miles of coastline, we enlisted the help of hundreds of wonderful volunteers to aid IMG_2214us in the clean-up.  Last, but certainly not least, we had to make a decision about the gardens.  With no irrigation in any of the gardens, the idea of flushing out the soil was impossible.

What should we do?

To say we (Eunyoung and myself) did nothing is only part of the answer.  In consultation with Japanese experts, we decided to take a different approach.  We leaned into the world of  “permaculture” .  Our approach was and is  to observe the patterns of nature, and examine over  time how nature deals with salinity in soil.  Considering our resources, both financial and human, we made a determination to be watchful and sustainable.

We will keep you posted on how this decision plays out.


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