Life’s a Beach (Grass)

A Day with the Greenbelt Native Plant Center

For years I’d been curious about the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC). I don’t remember where I’d first heard about it, but it was there on the New York City Parks Department website, tantalizingly close yet never open to the public. Its inaccessibility only piqued my curiosity.

And then one day last year, as Spring was approaching and I browsed the Parks’ website for nature walks, there it was: a volunteer event at the GNPC! “Processing beach grass” is what the description said. Processing? Of course I pounced on it, even if I wasn’t quite sure what the task was. It wasn’t the first time I traded a bit of elbow grease (as my Grandfather called it) for access, and I doubt it will be the last.

Processing beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata, one of several species known as “beach grass”) turned out to mean stripping the dry, brown leaves from clumps of grass to leave the fresh green stems and roots ready for planting at various beaches in the City. It was fairly easy work; we could even sit down. Best of all, after we’d stripped grass for a couple of hours one of the GNPC staff offered to take us for a tour of the facility.

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