Folks, I’m about to let you in on one of the best kept secrets in Brooklyn—something that’s not known by many people outside of Brooklyn’s most southeastern neighborhoods. I hope my fellow South Brooklynites can forgive me, but I’ve got to spill the beans about the Marine Park Salt Marsh.
Who would have thought that a city nicknamed the concrete jungle would have a 530-acre salt marsh within its borders? As a transitional zone between the Atlantic Ocean and dry land, the Marine Park Salt Marsh is a beautiful (and crucial) ecosystem full of reeds and cordgrass as tall as people, as well as a variety of fish, crab, and water-loving birds. As for nature-loving people, the marsh also contains a couple of hiking trails so you can immerse yourself in this wetland wonderland while being only a few steps away from civilization.
Speaking of civilization, could you believe that the Marine Park Salt Marsh has only existed in this form for just a few years? Of course, this was the area’s natural state hundreds of years ago, but as Brooklyn developed from being a smattering of villages to being part of a full-blown city, by the 1970s 75 percent of the original salt marsh was destroyed. While a lot of the marsh was filled in so Brooklyn could create more space for housing and industry, other parts of the marsh literally became a dump. You can still spot some remnants of its trashy past today as you hike along the trail—burnt out vans and abandoned boats are slowly being swallowed up by the reeds.
While striking, these apocalyptic scenes are rare at the Marine Park Salt Marsh. Your most common sights will be the seemingly endless fields of cordgrass lining the languid, salty waters of Jamaica Bay. Take a cue from the water and linger here for awhile. Listen to the wind rustling through the reeds and to the birds squabbling and chirping. Take in the fresh, earthy aroma. Don’t forget to take some sunscreen and a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. There’s a lot of mud here.
In terms of exertion, the Marine Park Salt Marsh Trail is an easy hike. If you’re looking for something more active, feel free to bring a canoe and paddle over to Mau Mau Island, which sits directly across the shore. Also, don’t forget to stop by the Salt Marsh Nature Center to pick up a trail map and learn even more about this beautiful wetland.
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