High Rock Park is the cornerstone of the Greenbelt and one of the area’s most popular “Forever Wild” parks. High Rock was designated a National Environmental Education Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in 1971. School and enrichment programs serve students from pre-school to college-level, instilling an appreciation for the natural world. High Rock Park is home to the Greenbelt’s environmental education department, the Greenbelt and Greenbelt Conservancy headquarters are located here.
High Rock Park contains five ponds and various wetlands, including Loosestrife Swamp located near the entrance gate. There are also hiking trails, where visitors can see stands of red maples (Acer rubrum), Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), and patches of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). Wood ducks (Aix sponsa), Great blue herons (Ardrea herodias), and muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) all make their homes here along with hawks, owls, migrating colorful warblers, woodpeckers, frogs and turtles. Visitors can also climb Moses’ Mountain, a 260-foot man-made hill named for City builder and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. The 360-degree panoramic view offered by the site is considered one of New York City’s most spectacular.
Long ago, American Indians utilized this fertile land for sustenance; British soldiers camped here in 1776 and in the nineteenth century, great parcels were tied to family estates. The area eventually became a camp for the city’s boy and girl scouts and, in the 1960’s was in dire threat of becoming a residential neighborhood with rows of snug houses. Preservationists succeeded in keeping the land undeveloped; the hilltop oasis became New York City parkland, now part of the expanded Greenbelt. Today High Rock is well-utilized by those seeking a refuge for relaxation and recreation.