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The High Line in New York: Nature is Culture is Nature

The High Line is a New York City park build on an elevated rail line that was used for transporting food to lower Manhattan from 1930’s until 1980’s. After the traffic stopped, nature started to take over the tracks. A self-seeded landscape emerged as wind, birds and insects carried seeds to the gravel. While many people saw the High Line an ugly eyesore, some understood that it had grown into a garden of wild plants. A non-profit conservancy, Friends of the High Line, was established in late 1990’s to advocate the preservation and reuse of the High Line as a public space.

After years of dispute and dialogue on how the High Line should and could be used, the first section of the High Line opened to the public in 2009. Today, the High Line is a continuous, 1.45-mile-long greenway featuring over 500 species of plants and trees. In addition, it has become a place for various cultural activities and events.

High Line, New York

After our visit to the High Line, we discussed its highlights:

Johanna: I really enjoyed how the track kept changing as we walked along. First, we walked on concrete surface set along the old rail tracks. After that, there was a section with wooden path and then some metallic bridges that covered the old railroad. The fauna also kept changing and there was a large variety of flowers and other plants along the track.

Anna: Yes, I noticed that too. At some places, the path goes through grasslands, meadows and lawns, while at other places, it’s covered by high trees and lush bushes.

Restoration in the High Line, NY

Anna: My favourite spot was a resting place where sturdy wooden sunbeds with steel wheels were set on the train tracks. This is a playful detail that nicely pays homage to the original use of the tracks.

Johanna: Haha, I noticed how you enjoyed those sunbeds. There was a lot other resting places along the track, too. Amidst the urban heat island that New York is in the summertime, the High Line seems to offer a nice rest for both locals and visitors.

Anna on the sundeck, High Line, NY

Johanna: There were also plenty of art works along the path. Evidently, the High Line is a place for cultural activities. As a management scholar, I must mention the Ruth Ewan’s monumental-scale clock Silent Agitator. It made me think of our constant urge to get organised, and that we should consciously reserve time for spontaneous adventures in our lives.

Anna: Speaking of organising, I was thinking of replicating the idea of temporary art in parks in our campus nature project in Tampere University. Wouldn’t it be a cultural achievement?

Time to Organize, Clock at the High Line, NY

The High Line is a must for New York visitors interested in urban greenery.

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