Prospect Park reopens Fallkill Waterfall trail after nearly 30 years

October 26, 2023

All photos courtesy of Caroline Ourso

New Yorkers can now access a waterfall in Prospect Park without having to hop a fence for the first time in decades. The Prospect Park Alliance on Thursday opened Fallkill Trail, a new woodland pathway leading to the scenic Fallkill Waterfall that has been behind fencing since 1995. The new trail was created by staff and volunteers from Prospect Park Alliance who worked to remove invasive plants, plant native species, haul logs, grade paths, and form the trail.

Fallkill Falls closed to the public in the mid-1990s as part of an initiative to restore Prospect Park’s woodlands which had experienced years of deterioration due to a lack of funding to the city’s Parks Department in the 1970s and 80s, according to the New York Times.

From the mid-1990s to 2004, an abundance of trees, shrubs, and plants were added to the area, and the space around the waterfall was fenced in to ensure that the new plantings had time to settle. The first iteration of the fence measured eight feet tall but was cut in half to allow visitors better views of the falls.

For years, park visitors have frequented the Fallkill area by jumping over fencing that surrounded the area. These actions have resulted in trampled woodlands, graffiti, and litter. The Alliance hopes that by officially opening the area to the public, the trail can be more accessible and encourage visitors to carry out their litter instead of leaving it.

“We have monitored how people are engaging with the park and we adapt our uses to meet them where they are. This new trail will invite visitors to explore a previously fenced area of the park and enjoy the beautifully restored landscape,” Morgan Monaco, President of Prospect Park Alliance, said.

“The park’s natural areas are a true respite for New Yorkers and the long-term health of our natural areas requires us to be champions and strong stewards of the park and I urge all who come to experience the park’s woodlands to stay on the designated trails, carry out all trash that you bring in, and always keep dogs on-leash to protect these delicate habitats.”

Last November, workers began cutting fallen trees, removing invasive species, and figuring out which plants would be best introduced to the area. They then planted native woodland herbaceous seeds and marked the path.

The logs that have been cut from the fallen trees will line the path, and once they begin to degrade, will further feed the ecosystem. Steps and swales have also been added along the path to help with erosion.

The Alliance plans to extend the path over a ridge and down to some nearby baseball fields over the next couple of years.

While the trail is now officially open, the waterfall won’t be able to be seen in the near future. The waterfall is man-made and has been turned off to prevent Prospect Park Lake from flooding, according to the New York Times. The lake’s water level is still high due to September’s heavy rain and it is unclear when it will be turned back on.


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