After years of uncertainty, the Parks Department has committed preserving the wetlands in Highland Park as an area for public recreation.
Details are still in their most preliminary stage, but the city has set aside $9 million for the 53-acre site.
Parks project manager Theresa Dewey said the goal is preserve the ecological and cultural characteristics of the site.
“It’s a very unique site,” Dewey said of the defunct former water supply for Brooklyn in Highland Park. “It's surrounded by a lot of green and a lot of ecological importance and habitat.”
In 2013, an outside perimeter path was built and the causeway between basins two and three was opened.
Parks is attempting to have the site designated as a critical environmental area at the state level, which would greater scrutiny and regulations as it pertains to any future actions.
But while that’s taking place, Parks is also looking to utilize that mayoral funding to shape the future of the site, which has many residents and green space advocates split.
Jonathan Turer, director of programs and operations for NYC H20, wants greater access.
“One of the things that we thought would be an interesting proposal would be to create a ‘managed experience’ into the basins,” he said.
That could include a boardwalk-like structure through basin three with an entry point at one of the existing gatehouses, as well as a possible higher walkway in basin one.
One resident expressed fear that having so many people and school children traipsing into the basin would destroy the pristine nature of the space and have an adverse impact on the birdlife.
But Charles Monaco with the Highland Park Community Advocates explained that he believes there’s a lot of benefit to opening it up to the public and not forcing people to stay on the paths around the basins.
“There’s a public health value to walking in green space,” Monaco said. “What we envisioned years ago was a boardwalk into the green space.”
Years ago, Bishop David Benke, a Brooklyn pastor, advocated the area into recreational ballfields, but he has since come around to having it persevered.
Especially as the neighborhood changes, he believes more and more young people will want to come and have the experience of being completely immersed in nature and away from the noise of the city.
“I think this is a very good way to maximize educational use,” he said.