Near the southeast corner of Central Park there is a 4-acre hill called the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. This land was closed to the public and preserved as a bird sanctuary by NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in 1934, and in 1986 renamed in memory of George Harvey Hallett Jr., a birdwatcher, naturalist, and civic leader. By closing its to people, Central Park intended for the site to naturalize back into a rich and diverse woodland... but with out horticulture maintenance, the hill actually became a mono culture of two trees; the invasive "Tree of Heaven" (Ailanthus altissim) and native Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). Around 2001 the park decided to end its experiment of naturalization, and actively in-rich the habitat with more natives, and complete removal of invasive species such as the Tree of Heaven. Now the sanctuary is by far more healthy and diverse than it was in the past, supporting various wildlife populations. Last week I went on a tour of Hallett Nature Sanctuary to see whats growing for my self. The canopy is still dominated by Black Cherries (which is good, being such a beneficial tree), but there is also an array of other trees like Ash, Red Oak, Holly, Honey Locust, Elm, some Grey Birch... under story trees such as Service Berry and Flowering Dogwood, and a mix of shrubs; Azaleas, Low Bush Blueberry, Sweet Pepper Bush, Rhododendron, etc. I believe there is an important lesson in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and that is: we have to actively tend to habitats for better biodiversity, other wise invasive species will dominate disturbed sites. It would be fantastic if left alone, places like central park would return to an ecosystem once found there 500 years ago, but this not true, and "monsters" we have unleashed can only be controlled by us.
Starting next month, every first Tuesday of the spring/summer/fall months, Hallett Nature Sanctuary will open to the public, def pay it a visit!
Heres a good video to watch in regard to Central Park Woodland Restoration