The Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park will be closed until 2023 so it can receive a $2 million renovation, aimed at preserving the largest nature center in any of the city’s parks.
The project, which is ongoing and is expected to be finished in 2023, aims to upgrade exhibition and office space within the building as well as make it ADA-accessible, a Parks Department spokesperson said.
The Center was built in 2000 at the northern tip of the Salt Marsh Nature Trail, just south of the section of Avenue U which separates the trail from the more developed northern section of the park, Brooklyn’s largest. The 530-acre nature trail winds through tall grasses and marshes which are home to various species of birds, fish, crustaceans, turtles, and other wildlife.
Behind the center are wood pilings which are the only remains of the nation’s first “tide-powered mill,” built in 1645 and destroyed in a fire in 1935.
“This was the first beautiful building constructed in this flagship park,” said Maria Carro-D’Alessandro, board chair of the Marine Park Alliance, in a statement. “It serves as a gateway to the nature trails and an anchor destination for visitors. It’s been over 20 years since it was first built and we are glad NYC Parks is investing in renovations so the Nature Center can be here for our grandchildren’s children in the next century.”
The Nature Center contains exhibits and classroom space for students of nature to learn about Marine Park’s native flora and fauna and about preservation, as well as telescopes to look out at the marsh, especially at places that can’t easily be traversed by foot.
The building also holds office space for the Urban Park Rangers, described by their union as the city’s “chief ambassadors to nature,” who run events featuring various outdoor recreational activities, actively conserve the wildlands, and educate the public on the city’s natural splendor and the importance of preserving it.
The Nature Center had been closed for much of the COVID-19 pandemic, as were the city’s other nature centers, but reopened this summer on the weekends. It will be closed to the public until the spring of 2023, during which time half the building will be closed entirely, while rangers will work in the other half.
Local pols pledged $11.1 million for repairs and upgrades at the park back in 2019, just months before the onset of the pandemic. The Parks Department’s capital projects tracker shows four ongoing jobs there, including work at the Nature Center, oval, golf course, and forest. Work is furthest along at the Nature Center, the only one where construction has started.