The Sacred Place at Naval Cemetery was created as part of The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, a much larger plan to transform unused space around Brooklyn Navy Yard into lush waterfront, and was a National Nature Sacred Awards grantee. Covering more than 1.5 acres, the space is the site of a former naval cemetery that held more than 2000 graves. Though the bodies that once rested there were moved more than 100 years ago, it was vital to everyone involved that the space honor the site’s history. Thus, the paths that now allow visitors to navigate the green space are raised wooden walkways. Meaning, visitors hover over the land — a meadow now home to an array of native plants that grow untended and draw pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies.
The sustainable landscape is helping restore the balance of the local environment while offering a space where visitors can contemplate and reflect.
Like all National Nature Sacred Awards sites, research is being conducted at Naval Cemetery. The focus here is to better understand nature’s effects on stressed communities. Researchers involved with the project have partnered with The Williamsburg High School of Arts and Technology (formerly The Green School of East Williamsburg) and Brooklyn Community Housing and Services (BCHS).
In conjunction with high school, the team developed a ninth grade science curriculum based on the planned meadow. Students learn soil science, hydrology and biology, using the planned space as a laboratory. Following grade nine, students are invited to join a club that engages them in steward activities, introducing the public to the site and selling plants to members of the local community.
And for BCHS, which provides housing assistance for community members who have had challenges functioning in society, the Naval Cemetery Landscape project is engaging residents in on-site programs run by The Horticultural Society of New York, encouraging them to interact with the nature available in their nearby community.