It’s truly an “only in New York” moment that in this green-deprived city, lotteries are used not only to determine who gets affordable housing, the Powerball jackpot, and a spot in competitive Kindergartens, but also who gets to experience tax-funded nature.
The Urban Park Rangers is a more than 30-year-old program where nature “ambassadors” in state trooper hats host a variety of events in city parks. These nature experiences run the gamut, from child-friendly activities aimed at families (although, when I was 17 I totally attended a Make Your Own Drawstring Bag event at the Lefferts Historic House which was very clearly intended for children five and under but, like, I learned so much about bags and I still use the one I made that day today) to “advanced” excursions, like birding on the off-limits White Island and a variety of other hiking, kayaking and environmentally friendly escapades.
Many of the more popular events held by the Rangers use a lottery to determine participants; others are run on a first come first served basis. We checked out the Rangers’ upcoming fall calendar and here are what we determined to be the best free nature experiences being offered in Brooklyn (and some bonus out-of-borough adventure):
- Sunday, September 17: Learn how to build a fire like a caveman AND like a 21st century human at the Prospect Park Picnic House.
- Saturday, September 23: Go birding in salt marshes down at the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park. Birders will be chosen by lottery, for which registration opens September 13.
- Sunday, September 24: Explore 360-year-old wood pilings at the site of one of the first water-powered mills in North America at the historic site of the former Gerritsen Grist Mill and Farmhouse.
- Friday, September 29: Go camping in Marine Park. Campers will be selected by lottery, the registration for which opens on September 20.
- Honorable out of borough mentions: Learn to canoe in the Spuyten Duyvil Creek on August 26, go seining in Staten Island’s Lemon Creek Park, off Princes Bay (yes, that’s a real place within New York City) on September 10, and learn out to build a bat habitat in the East Village on September 26.
Check out the Rangers’ full schedule of events here.
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