Columbia marsh project nears completion

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Columbia marsh project nears completion

Story and photos by Gregg McQueen

Columbia University expects that the waterfront park Muscota Marsh will be open later this fall.

Columbia University expects that the waterfront park Muscota Marsh will be open later this fall.

The status of Muscota Marsh – the waterfront park being constructed by Columbia University on West 218th Street and Indian Road – has been perplexing Inwood residents throughout this past year.

The site, at least to a casual observer, has appeared finished for months, with its boardwalk, benches, handrails and lighting fixtures clearly visible.

However, Muscota Marsh remains closed, situated behind barriers and a locked fence.

According to the University, the wait to access the park will soon be over.

“The major construction for Muscota Marsh is finished and the University is working on completing the last few remaining items,” said Columbia spokeswoman Victoria Benítez in a statement. She added that the marsh should be open to the public sometime this fall.

“NYC Parks and Columbia are coordinating remaining site work to ensure a Certificate of Completion can be issued in the near term,” she stated.

The Parks Department agreed that the site should be accessible soon.

The marshland environment is designed to attract ribbed mussels, leopard frogs, herons and egrets.

The marshland environment is designed to attract ribbed mussels, leopard frogs, herons and egrets.

“We can confirm that Columbia and NYC Parks are looking forward to offering new access and amenities on the waterfront later this fall,” said a Department spokesman.

No official opening date has been specified.

The site, also commonly referred to as “Boathouse Marsh,” was originally marked to open in 2012, but construction was delayed due to Hurricane Sandy.

Following the hurricane, all park lighting had to be rewired because of flooding, and was redesigned to withstand future storms. The marsh’s dock also needed regrading.

When opened, the site would give visitors improved access to the Harlem River waterfront and extend the area’s native marshland.

A wooden walkway snakes around the edge of the wetland, intended to provide guests with close-up views of the water, and exposure to sights and sounds of a naturalized river bank.

The park will feature bike racks, as well as picnic areas.

The site would give visitors improved access to the Harlem River waterfront.

The site would give visitors improved access to the Harlem River waterfront.

Benítez stated that Columbia, NYC Parks and James Corner Field Operations – a landscape architecture firm that also designed the High Line – received a design award from the New York City Public Design Commissioner for the Muscota Marsh’s extensive wetland restoration, which reintroduces salt marsh and freshwater zones containing a diverse palette of native plants.

During construction, certain freshwater wetland plantings were grown off-site over the course of several months, then installed into the freshwater section of the new park.

The marshland environment is also designed to attract ribbed mussels, leopard frogs, herons and egrets.

The Muscota Marsh project was the focal point of a community benefits agreement in 2011, wherein Columbia agreed to construct the waterfront park for public use, in exchange for the right to build the $30 million Campbell Sports Complex.

For more details on the Muscota Marsh project, visit www.facilities.columbia.edu/node/1328/1354.