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Nearly Forgotten Central Park Sanctuary Reopens Next Month

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A four acre parcel in Central Park that has been closed to the public since the 1930s is set to reopen next month as a new nature preserve. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Fifty-ninth Street is always busy, a constant whoosh of Midtown traffic. Yet a quiet urban oasis sits only steps away. For 80 years, a piece of Central Park known as the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was closed to the public. Limited guided tours began last fall. But starting May 6th visitors will be able to walk around the space on their own.

"There you have 59th Street and here you have ferns and wildflowers so that's a great contrast," said Central Park Conservancy Vice President of Operations Neil Calvanese.

The sanctuary is tucked away in the southeast corner of the park. It was closed as part of a deal to build Wollman Ice Rink.

Over the years the natural landscape was overrun with invasive plant species. The non-profit Central Park Conservancy started restoring the space in 2001. They're removing the harmful plants and replacing them with things that would've grown in Manhattan centuries ago.

"It's really exciting because there's not many opportunities in the city for people to come in contact with these type of plants, ferns and wildflowers, that typically you would see 50 miles, 100 miles north of here," Calvanese said.

The sanctuary will be open every Tuesday in May and then weekly throughout the summer as well. The Conservancy's experts say it will be both a learning experience and a just a quiet place for New Yorkers to enjoy nature in the city.

"I'd like for people to come in here and take a closer look. I feel like in the city you're kind of like bombarded by sensory things and so in here I think you have the opportunity to kind of relax and maybe just look at a tiny flower that you would never notice elsewhere," said Central Park Conservancy Gardener Shanna Blanchard.

At least some park goers who spoke with NY1 on Wednesday were eager to get in and see what's happening.

"I think it would be wonderful, another nice addition to the park. There are so many things going on already," said one park visitor.

"It's really cool because there's all these kinds of buildings and there's not really a lot of park space. But now, Central Park is a park space and it's really cool to be a part of nature," said one youngster visiting the park.

For information on the sanctuary's opening and its hours, visit centralparknyc.org.

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