Prospect Park trail closed to visitors for decades reopens to the public

Fallkill Trail in Prospect Park
Park staff and volunteers worked hard to restore the Fallkill Trail and reopen it to the public.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Ourso/Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park is bigger and more unexplored than many realize. For 28 years, the Fallkill Trail, which led to a man-made waterfall was closed to the public by a metal gate. Some visitors managed to get around it or over it, but for most, the area remained off-limits — until now. 

The trail has been restored and opened. The waterfall will function again, on the next drier season, when there is no risk of flooding the park’s lake. And more is yet to come.

“We’ve built the path above the waterfall so you can stand there and enjoy the sound, the smell of the waterfall, ” said Morgan Monaco, President of Prospect Park Alliance. “It then takes you on loops around in the woods and brings you back down to up behind the ball fields, but it’s quiet up there. It is beautiful. It’s real nature. You can tell that it’s been closed for a long time.”

prospect park ribbon cutting
The Alliance celebrated the official reopening of the trail on Oct. 25. Photo courtesy of Caroline Ourso/Prospect Park Alliance

The restoration of the path that opens a whole section to explore took eight months and the efforts of many volunteers.

“Nothing was brought in, I insisted on that,” said Monaco. “It’s a long trail, finding the logs and all the equipment to build this wasn’t easy. I wanted it to have a nice organic feel. So all the logs were repurposed from the area around, from fallen trees and broken wood, everything was done manually. You’ve got to look out for erosion.”

According to Monaco, the only vegetation taken out for the completion of Fallkill were invasive specimens.

“It was an area the at wasn’t looked after as much as others, but we wanted to change all that,” she said. “We had the board of directors come in at the last weekend and plant a load of new stuff as well.”

Volunteers managed to build the trail to go around the waterfall which, makes the path a double attraction — and according to the president, this is just the beginning of more trail systems going through that area with more planting and more removal of invasive species coming next year.

The Park Alliance has a $20 million project planned to restore the edge of the lake and provide greater access and its viewing areas.

“We’re garnering support from residents to help us make sure we reach that $20 million capital goal,” said Monaco. “We’re asking our elected officials at the city, state, and even federal level to help fund this project. The Brooklyn delegation is especially important, but there’s funding at the state for these kinds of projects as well. Just having more New Yorkers say that this is valuable and a priority for the park goes a long way.”

New path fallkills in prospect park
Park Staff used to find garbage and graffitti in the closed area. They are hoping more visitor traffic will help increase interest in its neatness. Courtesy of Caroline Ourso/Prospect Park Alliance

The budget for 2024 fiscal year recommends appropriations of approximately $710 million for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, state-wide, an increase of about $36 million from this year’s enacted budget. This change is due to expected spending associated with settled union contracts, inflation, and increased operational activities.

The project will include restoring the edge of the lake, beautifying the park, and bringing back the vision of designer Frederick Law Olmsted — while ensuring Brooklyn’s Backyard is healthy and resilient to the effects of climate change.