The New York City High Line, a 1.45-mile elevated walkway bordered by over five hundred species of plants and trees, is a public park built on a historic elevated freight train line on Manhattan’s West Side. Neighborhood residents and the City of New York saved the rail line from demolition in the early 2000s, envisioning a public space celebrating nature, art, and design.
Inspired by twenty-five years of a self-seeded landscape on the train tracks, garden designers selected perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees appropriate for life in the irrigated planting beds that would attract birds and insects. The plants are left standing all winter, with a large volunteer force cutting them back in March.Various art installations line the walkways.
We walked the High Line one hot summer morning, catching glimpses of the Hudson River as we strolled south. Traffic noise was muted. People were free to amble and rest on benches. I saw city birds—English sparrows and pigeons—though I suspect more species live in the gardens. The planting beds are six to ten feet deep on either side of concrete paver stones. Rain water is captured in the cracks between the stones, and flows into the planting beds. Perennials, which are hybridized prairie wildflowers, bloom in a carefully orchestrated sequence. When we visited the third week of July, coneflowers, the last of the liatris, various sunflowers, and brown-eyed Susans bloomed next to sprawling blue-flowered wild petunias. At the southern end of the high line, an established stand of marsh mallow showed extravagant pink flowers against the tall buildings along the river.
A High Line Network exists, with projects underway or complete in 2019: the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington D.C.; the Presidio Tunnel Tops in San Francisco; the Atlanta BeltLine; the Queensway in the Borough of Queens; River LA in Los Angeles; Buffalo Bayou Project in Houston; and the Dequindre Cut in Detroit.
Readers and writers, do you have a High Line project in your area or have you visited one?