In 2015, the organization Safe Harbors of the Hudson purchased a vacant lot in the center of downtown Newburgh, NY and commissioned One Nature to develop a master plan for a new public park. Located in the Hudson Valley, the city of Newburgh boasts the largest National Historic District apart from New York City. Newburgh experienced a rapid economic decline beginning in the 1950s, which was exacerbated when the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge on I-84 opened in 1963, bypassing downtown Newburgh entirely. However, the city looks to the future as new businesses begin to capitalize on the city’s waterfront, historic architecture, and diverse community. Safe Harbors Green brings accessible green space to downtown Newburgh, a positive development in what has recently been an economically stressed area. One Nature was responsible for the project design, management, and contracting for Safe Harbors Green, in addition to providing maintenance and volunteers for the initial plantings.
The core of the project merged principles of restoration ecology and the city's need for community space. Not only did this require a flexible design for various social programming, but it also demanded thoughtful changes to the existing topography through construction. Through the design process, One Nature explored the many uses a public park could provide: relaxation, farmers markets, outdoor concerts, community events, and nature education were just a few. The design features two staircases, a performance stage, 3 lawns, an ADA accessible ramp, and paths connected throughout. Additionally, the park is lit by solar lighting, creating a safe space at night.
Changes to the topography of the site, which was virtually flat, resulted in a series of terraced lawns and focal points throughout the park creating a more dynamic landscape. Crushed stone paths connect the different levels of the park, with two entrance staircases built with local bluestone steps on both Broadway and Ann Street. A vegetated swale was constructed and designed to direct storm-water runoff and reduce the risks of drainage related damages while promoting green infrastructure in the city’s fabric. Compost and topsoil were added to the site in order to provide a healthy growing medium for more than 4,000 native plants with locally sourced seed genetics.
The project boasts a planting list of a variety of local, native plants. Essential to the park design was bringing life to an otherwise sterile landscape. Choosing native plants allows the park to create habitat, increase carbon sequestration, remove air pollution, reduce high temperatures in hotter months, all while creating an aesthetically pleasing space. Some of the plants found in the park include bluestem, goldenrod, milkweed, purple coneflower, sumac, and many other species.
This recently completed park has already begun to make an impact in the city. Safe Harbors Green is providing a much needed space for the community to facilitate various programs and events, recreate, relax, experience and enjoy the environment, as well as take pride in their city. The park offers habitat to insects and birds in the center of a heavily urban neighborhood, increasing green space in the city, and ultimately creating a positive development for the local ecology, economy, and community. Safe Harbors Green and Newburgh serve as an example for what other struggling downtown areas can be.
Note: While One Nature developed the conceptual vision for this project and performed construction management, professional design services for this project were provided by Hudson Land Design Professional Engineering, P.C.