What do a butterfly waystation and former Naval cemetery have in common?

In honor of Veterans day, Nature Sacred CEO, Alden Stoner and Firesoul Terri Carta gathered for a moment of reflection and gratitude, thinking of and thanking our armed forces. “We thank those who are serving and have served for today’s peace, allowing us to take a moment of respite in nature at the Brooklyn Naval Cemetery Landscape (NCL).” Alden recalls the special moment.

Nature Sacred CEO Alden Stoner and Firesoul Terri Carta.

Next, along with Brooklyn Greenway Initiative colleagues, Remy Schwartz and Avvah Rossi, Terri and Alden toured the award-winning Sacred Place, taking the opportunity to discuss the current and future activities for this now 5 year old mainstay in Brooklyn. 

Terri shared how the NCL had become an officially designated Monarch butterfly waystation for the pollinators on their migratory pathways. The avian activity is blooming, now with over 38 species and five different feeding guilds frequenting this bastion of nature in the city. These environmental impacts were among some of NCL’s original Firesoul, Milton Puryear’s initial objectives for the project. 

Aside from being a hub of activity for butterflies and other insects, NCL offers a variety of attractions for humans too! Programs include yoga, sound baths, citizen science and birdwatching, particularly popular with families. During the summer months, and in partnership with the local library, NCL runs a ‘book bodega’, where visitors can borrow and share new publications and old favorites.

In addition to these programs, Terri and her team have taken a new, artistic angle, beginning to explore how this space can deepen people’s experience of art and of the landscape itself. This fall, NCL hosted an exhibit, “Layers”, the purpose of which was to “to acknowledge our human impact on the land and to inspire public attention, inquiry, and contemplation into the layered history of this site, the city, and our lives.” This past summer, they also hosted a screening of the film “Solitude: In a Landscape”. This production, shot at NCL, highlights how one artist found refuge in this Sacred Place, especially in the early days of the pandemic. 

Time in a Sacred Place is a uniquely individualized experience. Naval Cemetery Landscape is making efforts to encourage visitors to get what they need out of their visit. Terri explains NCL’s model, how programming, handouts and signage are kept at a minimum, as not to overly influence a visitor’s experience once they have entered the space. During open hours, there is always a staff member to speak with and answer questions when engaged by a visitor. This offers to deepen the adventure for those who are interested in knowing more about the park, its ecology and activities, without being prescriptive for those looking to craft their own quiet, restorative experience. 

The combination of programming, openness, and access seems to work well for this site, as visitation increased 30% since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 14,000 folks frequenting this Sacred Place last year.