Inwood Hill Park



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Inwood Hill Park is a city-owned and maintained public park in Inwood, Upper Manhattan, New York City, operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Inwood Hill Park stretches along the Hudson River from Dyckman Street to the northern tip of the island. Inwood Hill Park's densely folded, glacially scoured topography contains the largest remaining forest land on Manhattan Island. Unlike other Manhattan parks, Inwood Hill Park is largely natural (non-landscaped).
As the name suggests, large areas of the park are hills, mostly wooded. Many foot and bike paths criss-cross Inwood Hill Park, connecting across Dyckman Street to Fort Tryon Park and the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Some of these trails are former roads leading to what were once summer estates that later were brought under the control of the city in the creation of the park.
The park also contains three children's playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields and tennis and basketball courts. The Inwood Hill Nature Center at the north end of the park is both a location for educational programs and the local headquarters of the Urban Park Rangers.
The lack of green space in the eastern part of Inwood and the Bronx nearby creates an enormous demand for picnicking with barbecues and table/chair setups, activity that is either illegal or tightly controlled in most city parks but which Inwood Hill Park has managed by allowing such setups to take place on the peninsula portion of the park. This has not been without controversy from those who oppose any such noise, smoke and litter-inducing activity, but Inwood Hill Park has been successful in keeping illegal picnics away from the other sections of the park.
Inwood Hill Park's ballfields are heavily used and indeed completely subsumed by local and other city Spanish-language leagues during the long baseball season. Inwood Hill Park is not uncommon to see hundreds if not thousands of uniformed players and spectators at the Dyckman Fields and Seaman Avenue ballpark compounds. This usage places extreme pressure on the park, which as a result has required more active management in recent years.
The area of the park along the Harlem River includes Manhattan's last remaining natural salt marsh, which attracts large numbers of waterbirds. These waterfowl can be studied further via educational programs held at the Nature Center at the north end of the property. Mallards, Canada Geese and Ring-billed gulls are year-round residents, using both the water and the nearby lawns and ballfields. Many wading birds and waterfowl pass through on the spring and fall migrations, and herons and cormorants often spend the summer.
The woods also support a wide variety of birds, including common species such as Blue Jays and Cardinals. Birds of prey that breed in the park include Red-tailed Hawks and owls. A five-year project that began in summer 2002 is attempting to reintroduce the Bald Eagle to Manhattan using hacking boxes in the park and eaglets brought in from the Midwest. In the first summer, three of the four introduced eaglets fledged successfully; three or four fledged each year of the program. As of 2007 none had returned to nest in Manhattan, but most of the eagles raised in the park are too young to be nesting.
An orphanage was located high on a bluff in what is now Inwood Hill Park in the nineteenth century. The site today includes a small paved area and park benches; no trace of the building remains. At least three freshwater springs arise in the park, one of which was used for drinking water by the workers who constructed the Henry Hudson Bridge. The site where a wandering band of Indians from the Bronx "sold" New Amsterdam (Manhattan) to the Dutch is marked by a large rock and a plaque in Inwood Hill Park. Until the 1960s the base of the tree under which this transaction took place was still to be seen, surrounded by a large iron fence, but as it rotted this was removed and the boulder and plaque replaced it.
The park covers 196.4 acres (79.5 ha). The Henry Hudson Parkway and Amtrak's Empire Connection run through Inwood Hill Park, and at Inwood Hill Park northern end the Henry Hudson Bridge links Manhattan to the Bronx. Though the park does not support large wild mammals, the local wildlife does include raccoons and skunks as well as the usual city rodents. Both locals and people from outside the neighborhood fish from the riverbank at the north end of the park.
The park's western boundary is the Hudson River, and the southern boundary is Dyckman Street. From Dyckman to 204th Street the eastern boundary is Payson Avenue, from 204th to 214th Street it is Seaman Avenue, and from 215th Street to the park's end at 218th Street the eastern boundary is Indian Road.
Fiction authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child set Inwood Hill Park as a mysterious locale for their 2009 bestseller Cemetery Dance. The book also goes into some of the history of the park, but plays a bit of artistic license in adding a small dark enclave within the area as a plot device. Previously, mystery writer S. S. Van Dine (Willard Huntington Wright) set the plot of his novel "The Dragon Murder Case" (1934) in a fictional estate located in the middle of Inwood Hill Park.