What to do with unused rail tracks 30 feet above ground in New York City… Oh, what to do? If you’re a passionate New Yorker, you’ll save the tracks from demolition and turn them into a unique park!
Located high above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line was built on a freight rail line that opened in 1934. The project was meant to eliminate the accidents that occurred between freight trains and street traffic, but the growth of interstate trucking later rendered the historic rail line unnecessary.
What’s Growing at the High Line
Mother Nature herself inspires the High Line’s landscaping! When the train stopped running in the 1980s, a self-seeded landscape emerged between the rail tracks.
Today, the High Line features more than 300 species of grasses, shrubs, trees and perennials, including some of the original species that grew between the rail tracks. If you visit the High Line this spring, you can expect to see beauties like Gipsy Queen clematis and the Blue Ice bluestar.
Sustainability on the Tracks
The High Line uses LED lighting to illuminate pathways, and the drainage system is designed to reduce the need for watering plants. The open-jointed concrete planks used in the paths allow rain to drain into beds. In addition to reducing the need for additional watering, the drainage system helps combat stormwater runoff.
Making use of rain to save water is wonderful, but perhaps the biggest green benefit of the High Line is that it helps to mediate the “heat island” effect created by roofs and pavement. Instead of adding to the problem, the High Line provides oxygen and a habitat for birds and insects.
If you’re visiting New York City, I hope you’ll consider exploring the High Line. You’ll have plenty of tracks to cover. The 1.45-mile-long park runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.
Visit a Public Garden in the Sky: NYC’s High LineVisit a Public Garden in the Sky: NYC’s High Line by Brent Hardy