Transportation Nation

Beaver Family Out-Engineers Humans, Repeatedly Floods Road, Stays Cute (PICS)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A busy beaver family has flooded out a Wyoming road and stymied multiple efforts to gently bust their dam. (Photo by Sue Consolo-Murphy, GTNP)

(Grand Teton National Park , WY– YPR) – Human engineers faced off against nature’s engineers in an effort to save a scenic road in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park (GTNP).

“Beavers have been called the civil engineers of the natural world because they are prone to making these very extensive dams,” says park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.

One extensive dam and lodge flooded a portion of the scenic Moose-Wilson Road in GTNP. As a result park staff placed a system of perforated pipes in the pond in early August to gently flow water through the dam and lower the water level.

The GTNP beaver family. © 2012 Jackie Gilmore, all rights reserved

“We were concerned that we were going to lose the road all together,” says Skaggs.

The beavers had other ideas.

Nature photographer Jackie Gilmore of Jackson Hole, WY says within hours of the park’s mitigation work the beavers began to plug up all of the holes in the pipe with mud.

“The term ‘busy as a beaver’ was really obvious,” Gilmore says. The adults in this family of nine beavers quickly got to work, “going back and forth doing all this work,” she details. Within a few hours she says the water level began to rise again in the beaver pond.

So GTNP officials went back to the drawing board.

This time they installed a bigger bundle of longer pipes. Skaggs says they are 30 feet long. She says the system was designed to gently divert the water through the dam and further downstream.

GTNP crews preparing to lift a bundle of pipes to allow some water to flow past the beaver dam and lodge and downstream. Photo by Jackie Skaggs, GTNP.

Given the ingenuity of the beavers, however, park crews took steps to protect their work. There’s a wire cage at the front to keep the beavers from plugging up the pipes with sticks and mud. Posts also hold the pipes in place. Skaggs says beavers have been known to raise such pipes, rendering them ineffective.

View of the cage that is protecting the network of diversion pipes in front of the beaver dam in GTNP. Photo by Jackie Skaggs, GTNP

She says signs will be put up at the beaver pond to explain how this system works. “We’re trying to find that nice balance to protect the park road but also protect the beavers, our number one priority.”

The GTNP beaver pond. Photo by Jackie Skaggs, GTNP.

Gilmore, who’s been a nature photographer since 1978 in Jackson Hole, praises park officials for protecting the beaver’s habitat. She’s been watching this beaver family up close all summer. She says many times a crowd would gather.

“Everyone was able to see what they look like, how they acted, and there were points where you could actually see their large incisor teeth they use to cut off the branches,” she says.  “And if everybody was quite quiet and respectful you could hear them chewing and every once in a while they would make this humming sound. It was just an amazing experience,” she says.

Skaggs says the Moose-Wilson Road is a destination for Grand Teton National Park visitors because of the abundance of wildlife, including moose and a great grey owl.

She says because of that there have been conflicts between wildlife and people. So this beaver battle has drawn new attention to a plan to move the road. The road re-alignment is just one project in a a larger Grand Teton National Park transportation plan, signed in 2007. Skaggs says park officials are hopeful funding will allow the project to proceed in 2015.


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Transportation Nation

Proposed Lowline Underground Park Debuts "Solar Harvesters" for Subterranean Photosynthesis (PICS)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A sample "canopy distributor" channeling sunlight into a darkened warehouse demonstrates how the proposed Lowline underground park in Manhattan could have enough light to grow plants. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

New Yorkers can get their first peek at the technology required to construct a proposed park in an underground abandoned trolley station. A year ago (almost to the day). the Lowline project teased the imaginations of New Yorkers and dazzled park lovers everywhere by releasing dreamy renderings of a lush park paradise-to-be in a most unlikely place: below ground. And not just below ground, but below Delancey Street, one of the most disparaged and dangerous stretches of asphalt in the whole city for a pleasant pedestrian stroll.

In dense Manhattan, though, clusters of unused cubic feet are precious, be they in a penthouse or buried in infrastructure purgatory. So an abandoned trolley terminal dating back to the early 1900s is a contender to become New York park space. The plan depends on subterranean sunlight shining through the sidewalk in beams powerful enough to grow greenery.

"What I envision is that we will have this kind of undulating, reflective ceiling actually functioning as an optical device to draw sunlight into the space to make it somewhere that you would actually like to spend some time," says James Ramsey, co-founder of the Lowline and designer of the "Imagining the Lowline" installation that opens Saturday to showcase sample "solar harvesting" technology.

A 35-foot wide aluminum canopy showers light upon a mock indoor park to demonstration the "remote skylight" concept. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The Lowline name is a play on the wildly successful High Line, which turned an abandoned freight rail line on Manhattan's far west side into elevated park space. To showcase how that might be replicated in cavernous conditions, the Lowline team has set up an exhibit in a warehouse at ground level, right above the proposed site on Essex Street between and Broome and Delancey Streets. The rugged, blackened warehouse aims to recreate what it might be like to amble through the 100-year old trolley terminal below.

"On top of this roof we created  a massive superstructure, that's way in the air, that's actually harvesting the sunlight, redirecting it through light pipes," Ramsey says. A computer guides the rooftop solar collectors to track the sun all day long for maximal reflected light through a system created by a Canadian company, Sun Central.

The solar technology was designed by Raad Studio, engineering firm Arup, and physics professor Lorne Whitehead of the Univ. of British Columbia. Landscape by Hortus Environmental Design. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

To fund the exhibit, the Lowline raised $155,000 on Kickstarter. But it has to cross a number of hurdles before -- not to mention if -- it becomes reality.

Ramsey cautioned that the final design will depend on "many, many different conditions." Including negotiations with several city agencies. Delancey Street -- presently under a years' long redesign to become more bike and pedestrian friendly -- would need another overhaul to install "remote skylights." The preliminary engineering study for the Lowline is still weeks away from being finalized. That will bring with it cost estimates for tasks like lead paint abatement and adding drainage. After the price tag is tabulated, a design will be hatched, and the dreamers crazy enough to build a park below a busy city will have to commence some serious fundraising.

Also sharing space with the "Imagining the Lowline" exhibit is "Experiments in Motion," an installation sponsored by Audi and executed by Columbia architecture students to explore multi-modal transportation possibilities. The centerpiece of the projects on display is a 50-foot 3D model of New York's underground public spaces, mainly subway stations, meant to place the Lowline in spacial context.

Close up of the midtown Manhattan portion of a 3D model of the NY subway system. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The exhibit is open to the public Saturday, September 15th - 27th. More details are at the Lowline website.

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City to Take Bids on Ball Court, Dog Run Sponsorship

Monday, September 10, 2012

Corporate sponsorship could soon become a reality as the city’s parks department this week solicits bids from companies angling to sponsor one of the city’s 631 basketball courts or one of its 55 dog runs

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The Takeaway

Visiting the National Parks Before They're Gone

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The current states of some national parks, despite our country's efforts to conserve them, are still threatened by climate changes. In the future, they may be radically different, especially the parks primarily composed of glaciers and snow.

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For Grown-Ups, the Field of Dreams is One With Lighting

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

During the summer, it seems like every field in the city is occupied by a softball or soccer game, no matter the hour. The demand is especially strong at night when working adults have time to play, but the city has a limited number of lit fields.  WNYC took a tour of some of those fields and the adults that carve out time to play after the sun has set.

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The Takeaway

Reconsidering our National Parks

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

While the detonation of the atomic bomb in 1945 brought about death and destruction, the labs that created this bomb remain quiet and peaceful, albeit largely unseen. A bill in Congress may make these sites national parks, upping their tourism value and ensuring their preservation.

Comments [1]

The Takeaway

Finding the American Identity through National Parks

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Fourth of July sparks patriotism for many Americans, and in honor of today's holiday, what could be more patriotic than America's National Parks? Audrey Peterman is the author of "Legacy on the Land" and is a recognized National Park enthusiast.




NYC Parks Seek Corporate Sponsors

Friday, June 08, 2012


Move over Citi Field, here comes Acme Courts and Widget Dog Run. For the first time, New York City is selling naming rights to sponsor locations in its parks. The cash-strapped city is hoping to raise $5 million dollars a year by recruiting sponsors for its basketball courts and dog runs

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Transportation Nation

Park Score Rankings: San Francisco Best City for Parks, See How Your City Fares

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking a page from the addictive WalkScore rankings, we now have ParkScore. The Trust for Public Land has ranked big cities in America by access to, and investment in parks. It's similar to WalkScore. Except the rankings are by city, and the winner is: San Francisco.

Unlike WalkScore, which lets you enter any address in the country, ParkScore lets you glean information by looking at a map.

Top Ten Cities for Parks:

  • 1) San Francisco
  • 2) Sacramento
  • 3) Boston
  • 3) New York
  • 5) Washington
  • 6) Portland
  • 7) Virginia Beach
  • 8) San Diego
  • 9) Seattle
  • 10) Philadelphia

Full list here.

The Trust for Public Land ranks cities on a scale of 1 to 100 that is meant to represent how well a city is meeting residents' needs for parks.

You can zoom to see what neighborhoods are "serviced by parks" and which aren't. More interestingly, you can overlay that with demographic data, land use categories and low income neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, there is significant overlap between "need for park" and poorer residents.

The formula calculates park acreage, spending, number of playgrounds and number of residents living within a ten minute walk to parks.

Play around with the stats, see charts and find your city's ParkScore here.

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NY State Parks Bans Smoking at Playgrounds, Pools

Monday, April 09, 2012

The state is creating smoke-free areas outdoors at New York state parks and historic sites, including around playgrounds and pools.


Transportation Nation

Cuomo's Infrastructure Bank To Fund Parks With $143 Million

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Bear Mountain state park (NYS Parks department photo)

Another media blast from the New York Governor -- his infrastructure bank, New York Works, will fund $143 million worth of parks improvements from ball fields in the Bronx to a bathhouse at Jones Beach to a new ski-lift at Belleayre Ski Mountain in the Catskills, a state-run ski facility.

Like the press blitz a day earlier of $1.2 billion in accelerated roads projects, the announcement was made via ten separate press releases detailing popular projects, each with specially tailored quotes from local lawmakers praising the projects and the governor.

New York Works is Cuomo's new infrastructure bank.  It was enacted in December, though the bill authorizing its funding is less than a week old.

New York works will coordinate capital spending by 45 agencies and authorities.  It will have a governing board of 16, controlled largely by the Governor, though that body has yet to be constituted.

In recent years, Governors have killed big infrastructure projects, and Congress has yet to pass a surface transportation bill.    But Governor Cuomo is taking full political advantage of his new infrastructure bank by pushing out word of popular projects -- which not only provide needed area parks, but also create jobs around the state.

Here are links to the most recent round of press releases.

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks and Historic Sites in the Capital Region

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks and Historic Sites in the Southern Tier

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Project to Upgrade State Park in Central New York

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks and Orda Facilities in the North Country

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Project to Upgrade State Park in the Mohawk Valley

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks in Western New York

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks in Finger Lakes Region

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks in New York City

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks, Historic Sites and a Ski Facility in the Hudson Valley

04.04.2012 Governor Cuomo Announces NY Works Projects to Upgrade State Parks and Historic Sites on Long Island

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Transportation Nation

How Public Space, Urban Planning and Public Parks Play a Role in the Trayvon Martin Case

Monday, April 02, 2012

Protesters in Fort Mellon Park (photo by Matthew Peddie)

(Sanford, Florida) Demonstrations in support of Trayvon Martin are filling parks and streets in Sanford.

The green spaces in the central Florida city usually attract residents from around the area for a bit of recreation, but now they’re functioning as a stage for civic expression.

Sanford has more than 30 parks, many of them on the aptly named Park Avenue. Planners view the city’s linked green spaces and walkable streets as an inspiration for a back-to-basics approach to urban revitalization.

In the last two decades, more than $20 million has been poured into the renewal of streets and parks, and it's something visitors notice.

Downtown Sanford (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Even Reverend Al Sharpton took a moment at a rally to praise the city.

“In the days that I’ve been down and back, Sanford is a beautiful city," he said. "It’s on the side of the water, has great potential for tourism."

Sharpton went on to lambast city officials for not pushing for the arrest of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, saying the reputation of Sanford was not worth risking for his sake.

Founded in the 1870s, Sanford was conceived as a transportation hub, where steam ships disembarked and rail lines carried freight and passengers to the far reaches of Florida.

Orlando leaped ahead as central Florida's commercial hub in the 20th century, but Sanford’s economic development director Nicholas Mcray says transportation is again starting to play an important part in the city’s growth.

“We have connections to Interstate 4 and State Road 417, so we are a hub for that exchange," he says. "We have an international airport which also services 40 domestic destinations. The passenger count last year was north of a million and on target for 2 million this year. So we are coming full circle.”

Mcray says the arrival of the SunRail commuter line will also give the city a lift.

“The development opportunities around Sanford SunRail station, I guess you could say the sky’s the limit," he says. "There’s a lot of green space still left around there for transit-oriented design.”

Bruce Stephenson, the director of the Masters of Planning and Civic Urbanism program at Rollins College in Orlando, says the division of public and private space also plays a part in the Martin case.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

He says parks were originally conceived as places where people of different ethnicity, class and religious background could mingle in a natural setting. “The supposition is that being in that environment would enhance stability," he explained.

Stephenson is following the Sanford protests closely: he sees this moment as a case of good urban planning helping to shape people’s behavior. “The telling experience is that we’ve seen amazingly well behaved people in an engaging atmosphere in the public spaces.”

He contrasts the protests with the violent act that got them started. “The shooting was in a private space that was gated, guarded, and I think there’s a lesson to be drawn in what happens when we shut ourselves off from other citizens.”

Paul Harris, the chair of psychology at Rollins College, is an expert in the links between physical settings and human response. He says there are neighborhoods, not always gated, where residents don’t see their home territory ending at the house.

“They see it extending out into the yard, the street. And in that case you’re going to have people more zealously protecting those spaces.”

Harris thinks it’s a stretch to attribute the peaceful nature of the protests to the design of the parks and streets where they’re being held.

“Frankly, I think the issues that are going on are so charged that the impact of the environment is probably minute,” he says.

However, Bruce Stephenson says there are some bigger urban design lessons to be learned from Sanford.  He says some of the poorer neighborhoods reflect the downtrodden history of the city's African American residents. Yet Sanford's revamped downtown and public parks have been a resounding success.

Historic Goldsboro (photo by Matthew Peddie)

“A key concept is connectivity. That’s the test for the nation: can we connect white and black neighborhoods in an equitable manner?” Stephenson says the crowning achievement of Sanford's redevelopment is Riverwalk, a park running alongside Lake Monroe which attracts people from every background, to fish, run and relax.

“What’s important about that space is that it’s connected and linear, it runs along the water. Its whole concept is to move people and connect people. Those are the steps in creating community, and Sanford has made tremendous leaps, but there is an historical legacy to overcome.”

Stephenson says the city would do well to redouble its efforts in revitalizing its streets and parks.

Nicholas Mcray is proud of what Sanford has done to improve its cityscape. He believes the 40 percent growth in population in the last decade is a testament to the charm of the city.

“We’re an open, welcoming community. We have quality of life amenities that frankly most other communities are envious of and we think that will be shining through once all of the cameras leave.”

The parks will still be there after the crowds go home, and Sanford has plans to continue its improvement program, including a $7 million extension of the popular Riverwalk promenade.  Construction could start as early as this fall.

"A nation united can never be conquered" Sanford Veterans Memorial Park (photo by Matthew Peddie)



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Habitat Restoration Project Begins at Crooke's Point at Great Kills Park

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Parks officials have launched a pilot program to rehabilitate part of a coastal habitat at Great Kills Park on Staten Island. The project involves clearing two acres of a peninsula in the park known as Crooke’s Point, to root out invasive plant species, and eventually clear the way for planting new trees and shrubs that are native to the region.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

High Line Park

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joshua David and Robert Hammond talk about how they collaborated with their neighbors, elected officials, artists, local business owners, and leaders of burgeoning movements in horticulture and landscape architecture to create the High Line. The park is now celebrated worldwide as a model for creatively designed, socially vibrant, ecologically sound public space, and they tell the story of it’s creation in High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky.

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Corporation Gets Naming Right for NYC Park

Monday, October 03, 2011

The struggling New York City Housing Authority is relying on the generosity of corporations to help build parks on its properties — and giving naming rights in return.



Recent Class of American Nobel Laureates Honored on City Monument

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Tuesday evening, city park officials unveiled new inscriptions on the city’s Nobel Monument, honoring the three American laureates of 2010: chemist Richard Heck, economist Dale Mortensen, and economist Peter Diamond.



City Works to Clear Streets, Parks of Fallen Trees

Monday, August 29, 2011

City agencies fanned out over the city to clear trees from streets on Monday. Using data from 311 calls, parks officials estimate that around 1500 trees have fallen in the streets, with many more toppled in city parks.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Financing Public Parks

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Holly Leicht, executive director for New Yorkers for Parks, discusses the case of the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the trend to finance public parks through private development.

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Pop-Up Piano Goes Missing in the Bronx

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One of the 88 "Pop-Up Pianos" that have materialized in city parks in the past month has gone missing, according to a spokesperson at Sing For Hope.

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Outdoor Pools to Open this Week

Monday, June 27, 2011

On Wednesday, 54 outdoor pools will open their doors for summer swimming and sunbathing. There will be four fewer pools open this year and all pools will close two weeks early. Plus: See a list of our favorite city pools.