The Amazing Ridgewood Reservoir

The 50-acre, three-basin Ridgewood Reservoir sits on high ridge where Queens and Brooklyn meet, just south of the Jackie Robinson Parkway, in the northeast corner of Highland Park. The Ridgewood Reservoir was built by the city of Brooklyn, New York in 1858 in order to meet the water supply demand for the growing city. Then in 1901, the City of Brooklyn purchased the land surrounding the reservoir to create Highland Park and build a recreational haven for the residents of both Brooklyn and Queens. Finally after years of neglect, the Parks Department acquired the area in 2004.

A Look Inside The Ridgewood Reservoir

Free from the noise of the Jackie Robinson Parkway, Ridgewood Reservoir is a unique natural area with forest that regenerated without any human assistance. The habitat at the reservoir provides important breeding habitat. In the Reservoir there are a combination of many different types of habitats such as forests, fields, and wetlands. The outer basin was drained decades ago, which has provided a unique opportunity for forest succession, which is the development of plant and animal community. Today, the outer basins are filled and completely vegetated. The vegetated areas include closed forest, wetlands, scrub, woodland, pockets of open meadows, and vine land. The basins of the Ridgewood Reservoir hold an assortment of plant communities, some which are on the Threatened and Endangered lists.

Ecology of the Reservoir

Ridgewood Reservoir is located along the Atlantic flyway, one of the four main bird migration routes in America. Millions of birds along with bats, butterflies and dragonflies travel the flyway each fall and spring. The reservoir is a stopover for birds migrating along the Atlantic flyway and provides breeding territory for nearly 40 species, many of which are rarely found in the city. So far, about 137 bird species have been counted in the reservoir basins. There is also an abundance of butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and other insects, as well as several rare native plant species. Natural areas along the flyway, such as Ridgewood Reservoir, provide these animals with food and shelter. The site is developing a mature canopy forest with some strong native plant presence. Plant species include three with a conservation status of either endangered or threatened in the state of New York.

Importance of the Reservoir

The habitats within the Ridgewood Reservoir basins serve as an important storm water filtration system. In the reservoir, the current level of diverse trees and other vegetation provide habitat for numerous organisms such as birds. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation in 2008 proposed that this refuge or a part of it be retrofitted for active sport recreation and has targeted it for redesign and demolition. The destruction of urban woodland will undoubtedly impact the migratory bird population as well as the many other beneficial organisms, many not yet fully accounted for.

The Future of the Reservoir

A huge debate has been brewing over the future of the Ridgewood Reservoir. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreations seeks to find new and creative uses for open or unused spaces. Although no master plan has been selected, active recreation such as ball fields were on the table.

On the other hand some Citywide, local environmental, and parks groups want to keep the basin intact as a nature preserve and use the funding for new and improved facilities elsewhere in Highland Park.

There is no good and bad side in this debate in which both sides have relevant reasons behind their beliefs, also there is a lot of political and financial factors that I honestly don’t understand.

Nevertheless, I do know the Ridgewood Reservoir is home to a variety of animals, plants, insects, and birds.