The excavation at the Willoughby Avenue entrance construction project has unearthed a few secrets. Surprising information about the location of a major water main forced multiple redesigns to the ADA-accessible staircase, and will extend the project into spring 2016. Some of the more pleasant treasures unearthed by the contractor, Fredante Construction, included many boulders.
These boulders likely reached Fort Greene some 18,000 years ago, caught in the glacial tide as the Wisconsin Ice Sheet crept down from eastern Canada (Labrador). When the ice sheet receded, going no farther south than Brooklyn, the boulders, known as “glacial erratics” remained. The other silt and debris left by the ice sheet gifted us our park’s unique, hilly terrain.
I noticed the boulders at the edge of the chain link fence that separates the construction zone from the rest of the park earlier this fall. They appeared marked for removal along with other construction debris — cobblestones, pavers, and chunks of asphalt.
Some of the boulders were encrusted with sparkly mica and quartz. As a Park Manager always looking to make the most of available materials, I didn’t want these rocks to leave the park. Tom Baldante and his son Chris of Fredante Construction were happy to avoid the headache of disposing the boulders, and with the help of their front-end loader, we spent a morning placing the artifacts around the park.
You will find most of the boulders adding visual interest to garden beds. In future years, we may surround them with native grasses and perennials to further enhance the naturalized look that park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux sought when they designed the park in the late 1860s.
The two largest boulders unearthed were almost perfectly flat on one side. Paired on the lawn a quick forehand from the tennis courts, they provide a new seating option for contemplating the park’s southern landscape or a table for a picnic. The popular climbing boulder adjacent to these twins came from a nearby sewer construction project a decade ago.
We usually mark the start of our park’s history with the American Revolution and the Prison Ship Martyrs. These boulders — foreigners from some northern locale — take us back millennia, when our neighborhood was first sculpted by ice.
Director of Fort Greene Park
Like the boulders? Have ideas for more creative park features? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions for more park improvements.