Secret, closed-off section of Central Park reopens for first time since 1930s

Jeff Smith Image
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Part of Central Park closed since 1930's about to reopen
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Meteorologist Jeff Smith takes a look at a special nature sanctuary deep inside Central Park that the public will see for the first time in decades.

CENTRAL PARK, Manhattan (WABC) -- Eyewitness News takes you deep into the woods to a part of Central Park that few people even know exists, although that's about to change.

A magnificent slice of the park has been closed since the 1930s, but now is about to reopen.

It's a peninsula on about four acres in the southeast corner of New York City's crown jewel.

Just steps from the busiest streets and tallest buildings in Midtown is a place where many New Yorkers have never set foot.

"You have the chance to observe nature," said John Paul Catusco, the Woodlands Manager, Central Park.

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary went untouched for decades until restoration began in 2001, and is now for the first time open to the public on a regular basis.

"Hallett was set aside as a bird sanctuary in 1934 and back then they just put up a fence with barbed wire around it, all the way around, and there was no public access," Catusco said.

Once overgrown with invasive plant species like Wisteria, the winding paths in here now lead to waterfalls and vistas.

"One of the first major restoration efforts in Hallett was to get the wisteria under control," Catusco said. "We're up on top of the rustic overlook and this is just recently completed by our rustic woodworking crew and they do a lot of this kind of work in the park. This is a pretty unique spot."

Nature has taken its course over the years, and in some spots the Central Park Conservancy has decided to leave it that way.

"So we're looking at an uprooted pin oak that blew down during Superstorm Sandy, and this is another unique aspect of Hallett, you don't really see this kind of thing throughout the rest of the park. Normally when a tree comes down in a storm, we remove it, we chip it up, we turn it into mulch and we restore the area," Catusco said.

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2 p.m.-5 p.m.