Roosevelt Islander Online: Roosevelt Island Community Gardeners Collaborate Bringing Native Plantings To Local Urban Ecosystem At Cherry Grove Bed On Waterfront Promenade Across From Riverwalk Commons

Roosevelt Island Garden Club
(RIGC) member Julia Ferguson reports on a new community planting project taking place at
the Cherry Tree Grove on the East River waterfront promenade across from the Rivewalk

According to Ms Ferguson: 

RIGC has been working on a collaborative community outreach program. The focus
of the outreach series is Roosevelt Island as an Ecosystem in which soil,
climate, water, and plants, trees and landscape interact with humans, animals,
insects, birds to sustain life on our little urban island. 

RIGC has collaborated with Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC), Cornell Tech, iDig2Learn, and NYC Compost hosted by BigReuse for this project. The
project has two parts: 

  • Learning about how ecosystems work with specific
    examples, and planting native plants to provide habitats for beneficial
    insects and
  • Bring beauty to the island, and increase biodiversity.

Roosevelt Island resident and RIGC member Jack Burkhalter, an urban
naturalist, worked closely with RIOC’s Matt Kibby’s oversight to design and
plan out the details of the planting. 

RIOC provided over 1000 native habitat
bare roots and plant plugs for ground cover plants. Cornell Tech Students and
RIOC staff prepped the site. And on April 30, 2022 for #EarthLove Day, over 60
people, including lots of children, visited the educational table in the park
west of Meditation Steps and learned about how violets, milkweed, and sumac
trees nurture pollinators and ants, and how these insects benefit these
plants. An equal number of Roosevelt Islanders of all ages and abilities
joined to help plant over half of the planting area under the four old Yoshino
Cherry trees. On that day, a white throated sparrow was singing his joy, and
we may have heard the cherry trees thank us as we brought them new companion
plants and tickled/aerated their roots.

Lady Ferns, Foam Flowers, Violets, Wild Geraniums, Penstemon, and Pennsylvania
Sedges: all of these ground covers will be pleasing to see and they will also
welcome butterfly larvae, native pollinators, and help support bird life
especially in the spring. Phase 2 plans are for Wild Ginger, more Penstemon,
White Wood Asters, and a low growing soft Goldenrod to provide fall nectar for
pollinators and continued colors in autumn. 

I spoke with Ms Ferguson and Mr Burkhalter earlier this month as they were
working on the Cherry Tree Grove planting to learn more about the project and
their future Roosevelt Island Ecosystem collaborative plans.

Ms Ferguson adds:

On April 7, 2022, Rebecca McMackin, Director of Horticulture at Brooklyn
Bridge Park (BBP) spoke with Roosevelt Islanders in a free virtual talk. Ms.
McMackin knows about the challenges and rewards of turning an urban landscape
(Brooklyn piers and industrial area) into a thriving, stunningly beautiful and
healthy ecosystem. We appreciated Rebecca’s inspiration and willingness to
share her learning: the principles, and the practices of her entire BBP
Horticulture Staff where the “dynamic relationships” of both people and
ecosystems are honored and where the lives of plants, caterpillars,
butterflies, birds, and people fit together “seamlessly” in an urban setting.

Over 80 people from all five boroughs of NYC, from places across the U.S., and
from Nova Scotia to New Zealand were able to join us for Rebecca McMackin’s
Click here to read
through some of the key takeaways and watch the April 7, 2022 recording of
Rebecca McMackin from Brooklyn Bridge Park: A case study for seeing Roosevelt
Island as an ecosystem.

These days, more people are looking closely at building and grounds
sustainability as well as landscape ecology practices when they make decisions
on where to live and work. Together as an Island community, we can continue to
create a model for ecological health and beauty through collaborative
projects. With Roosevelt Islanders help we have completely planted Phase One
for this little habitat site. It takes a village and we are especially lucky
in that regard. Gratitude for another RI habitat planting providing health and
beauty after EarthLove Day 2022! 

Stay tuned for other opportunities to learn and engage with this idea and more
from “Roosevelt Island is an urban ecosystem.” Write to [email protected]
if you are interested in possibly volunteering for the fall planting at this

Thank you so much to RIOC, the RI community, and RIGC members for all the
help.  With Roosevelt Islanders’ help we have now planted another lovely
little habitat site. This established landscape bed will glow in a year or two
as the plants fill in. 

Any ideas for the next collaborative Roosevelt Island urban ecosystem gardening project?


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