Theodore Roosevelt Park Gets Green Facelift

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The "Museum of Natural History's backyard" will get an update and a state-of-the-art dog run

A brand-new look for Theodore Roosevelt Park, a 12-acre quiet oasis located in the back of the Museum of Natural History, has been in the works for years. But soon, with the help of Community Board 7's working group, Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Park, and the proceeds collected from New Taste of the Upper West Side's "Soiree in the Park" fundraiser, the renovations will actually come to fruition.

The renovations include the somewhat controversial $500,000 upgrade for the Bull Moose dog run in the park, which would bring in astro turf and a composting system that would recycle dog waste, as well as solar lights, greywater run-off that would water nearby plants, and basic beautification to the park as a whole.

"The park is often seen as just the backyard or front yard of the museum, but that's not true, it's a city park upon which the museum sits," said Community Board 7 member and City Council candidate Mel Wymore. He has led the community in bringing awareness to this Upper West Side park. "We wanted the park to be focusing on sustainability, we wanted an educational component, and we wanted to make sure it was a destination that bridged the Museum of Natural History to the rest of the Upper West Side community."

Wymore hopes that the high-tech green sustainability of the park, as well as its financial stability, will be an example to future parks.

"This is the direction we are going in, we are seeing this all across the city, in buildings and in parks," said Wymore. "It saves money from the energy costs, and provides more back-up sources of energy to run things when we have power outages."

Improving Theodore Roosevelt Park is not a new concept. In fact, the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Park group was created in 1989. In 1993, the group completely re-sodded and irrigated the park, which used to be a wasteland of mud and minimal grass. In 1997, the park was re-vamped again as part of the construction of the Rose Center Planetarium. At the completion of the Planetarium around 2001, an anonymous donor pledged $1 million to the park. In 2002, Friends of Roosevelt Park and the Museum of Natural History created a memorandum of understanding that would transfer funds between the museum and park.

Since then, the park has operated on a $250,000 budget, working with local interns who help with the park's upkeep. In the past year, Wymore helped to create the working group, which has allowed more community involvement and created more buzz around raising money for the park. The Soiree in the Park event, with tickets priced at $150, will provide another source of revenue.

"In the beginning, the park had one guy who picked up the litter and that was it," said Peter Wright, from the Friends of Roosevelt Park, who has been involved with the project since the beginning. "New Yorkers for Parks for the first 5 years of existence evaluated citywide parks and gave them grades. We consistently, with our tiny budget and small size, came in 4th or 5th out of 100. We as neighbors have to belly up for our park."

Despite the hefty pricetag on the dog run, Wymore and the Friends of Roosevelt Park feel that the investment is worth it.

"it's an amenity for the community and it's what really changes quality of life," said Wymore. "To take issue with how much something costs is to not see the big picture. We have to maintain our public assets."

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