When my friend Scott text invited me to join him for a tour with a Naturalist Guide for a Fall stroll through the North Woods of Central Park, I responded in a NY nano-second “Thank you I’m In!!”
A clear, crisp Fall day awaited our group of to-be comrades, several sporting binoculars, at the entrance of 108th Street at Central Park West. It was a cheerful bunch.
Ken Chaya, our leader, arrived and greeted each of the 15+ of us with a handshake. His tour was going to guide us to observe keenly trees, birds, bugs, fungi, squirrels and rocks. And he had a binocular set to spare. I was ready for my Naturalist Experience.
The first wildlife I noticed was a couple of dog-walkers pointing at us and saying, “Look, it’s Ken!”
It was then I realized I was with a Central Park Celeb.
And without much ado, off we went.
As we purposefully made our way at a slow crawl through the Northern Woods, we observed 450 million year old rocks, learned about the elms which the British cut down to use as masts for their ships, visited the fort that was constructed as a precautionary measure against British invasion, spotted an enormous bird-creature with a red tailfeather up high and some gorgeous fungi down low.
In sum, history and life were pulsing at every turn of our wondrous walk with Ken.
The most memorable story of the morning was when we spotted poison ivy and Ken then shared a Hurricane Sandy aftermath recounting of when walked into the Park on special permission to gauge the impact of the storm damage. Hundreds of trees, which Ken has spent enormous dedication documenting, were uprooted in the face of the storm. The trees’ root system in the Park is a particularly superficial one on account of the bedrock underneath, and could not withstand the torrent. While taking in the damage, Ken explained how, unaware to him at the time, poison ivy oils had been unleashed throughout the park thanks to the shredding impact of the storm. He came down with a bad case that day on account of a summer wardrobe choice of wearing shorts.
The Park has seen a lot, to say the least and the morning was a truly magical glimpse into that – thanks to my friend, Scott for being on the up-and-up on Central Park activities and to the folks who make Central Park a wonderland. If you haven’t yet been for a tour in Central Park, I recommend Ken’s tours. His knowledge and his love for this precious space are inspiring.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to make the neighborhoods surrounding the Northern woods your homebase space, please give us a call at Bohemia – we love Uptown and we would love to connect you to your next home!
Deborah Miller writes from the Heart of SoHa (South Harlem) with this special report from Bohemia Realty Group.
Ken Chaya is a New York City artist, designer, and urban naturalist. He spent over two and half years walking every acre of Central Park in order to map its many trails, highlight its stunning architecture and landscape features, and most importantly, locate and identify thousands of its magnificent trees. The result was “Central Park Entire,” a profusely illustrated map detailing the park’s varied topography and featuring the location and identification of nearly 20,000 trees and shrubs.