Reclaiming Inwood Hill Park Through Trail Work

June 21, 2019
Hank Osborn, Senior Program Coordinator
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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Reclaiming Inwood Hill Park Through Trail Work
Inwood Hill Park by baslow (Barry Solow)

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Inwood Hill Park on the northern tip of Manhattan has seen a lot of positive change in the past two years.

I visited the park in 2017 for a scouting expedition to determine what trail work might be needed to bring the trails up to a higher-quality user experience. I’ll admit that as I walked through the thick overgrowth, I felt as if I needed to be on alert. I pushed my way through overgrown trails and around blind corners through thick invasives and over abandoned clothing and evidence of illicit activity. I spent over three hours in the park with three other trail professionals. We encountered five or six park users who were living in the park or engaging in other prohibited activities. During our time scouting the trails that morning, our paths never crossed with any legal trail users. It was as if no one felt comfortable to enter the park; it seemed nearly abandoned.

Since that scouting trip in 2017, Trail Conference Metro Chair Mk Moore has worked with our New York City partners to implement several initiates to improve Inwood Hill Park. He has assigned maintainers to regularly check the trails for any and all trail issues. He has organized invasive species removal work trips and made it a priority to reopen the trails by clearing back the thick overgrowth—especially around the previously blind corners. I returned to the park recently and was shocked by the changes I saw. The park has been transformed.

Entire swaths of invasives are gone. Garbage has been cleaned up, the trail corridors have been widened, blind corners no longer exist, and all sitelines have all been extended. I encountered not a single illegal user during my half-day visit. The biggest indicator to me, however, was the number of people I witnessed using the trails for recreation. I must have seen at least a dozen different people jogging alone on the trails—and another dozen walking alone on the trails. To me, I was witnessing a huge success. A park had been reclaimed through trail work.