Starting next month, the NYC Parks Department will be leading free 90 minute tours of Freshkills Park on Staten Island, which was once a landfill so gigantic that it was rumored to be visible from space (not true, apparently). The 2,200 acre site is being transformed into a park almost three times the size of Central Park, and will be opened in phases over the course of the next quarter century, with development over the next decade focusing more on "creating early interventions and public access at North and South Park than at East and West Park, which are still undergoing landfill capping procedures," according to the Parks Department. Here's a taste of what's to come:

  • Synthetic turf soccer fields (two of which will be lighted) and a LEED certified comfort station complete with green roof, geothermal heating and cooling and a wind turbine that will be able to power the building. (2011)
  • A newly-renovated Schmul Park will offer playground, handball and basketball courts, flowering meadow, native grass areas and rain garden.(2011)
  • Horseback riding, mountain biking, nature trails and large-scale public art and cultural programming.
  • An earthwork monument on the West Mound will honor 9/11 and the recovery effort that took place at Fresh Kills. (TBD)

The site continues to attract birdwatchers, and the Parks Department says more than 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians have been recently sighted at Fresh Kills: American Kestrel, Red-Tailed Hawk, Northern Snapping Turtle, Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Common Tern, Ring-Necked Pheasant, Red-Winged Blackbird, Tree Swallow, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Egrets, Canada Goose, Muskrats, White-Tailed Deer and Cotton-Tailed Rabbit.

This spring tour guides will discuss the site’s history, engineering and landscape design, including the abundant flora and fauna that are returning to the area. The tour will take visitors to the tops of two of the site’s four large landfill mounds, which offer commanding offering views of the site, as well as views of downtown Manhattan. Seating is limited on the tour, so if you're interested you need to pre-register here.