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Poison Ivy Takes Root Along Inwood Hill Park Path

By Nigel Chiwaya | July 17, 2013 9:04am
  A large outgrowth of the rash-causing plant has sprouted up just south of Inwood Hill's soccer fields.
Poison Ivy in Inwood Hill Park
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INWOOD — Joggers and park-goers who are considering visiting a popular running path in Inwood Hill Park might want to scratch their plans.

A large outgrowth of poison ivy has sprouted up next to the path in Inwood Hill Park. The plant, which can cause extreme itching, burning and swelling upon contact with human skin, has stealthily taken up root in a section of brush just south of the park's soccer fields.

"I probably wouldn't even be able to recognize it," said Inwood resident Sveta Vilinski when the flora was pointed out to her. "I wouldn't have seen it."

The area of the park, just below Inwood Hills' salt marsh, is a popular destination for runners, who often pass by in shorts and short-sleeved shirts.

"Come by in the morning and you'll see tons of runners," Vilinksi, who takes her dog Sophie out for daily walks around the park.

While poison ivy might seem like more of an issue for campgrounds in upstate New York than upper Manhattan, it's actually a pretty regular problem in the city. 

"Poison ivy is common throughout all of New York City, and can be found in parks, yards, and open lots," said Dr. Christopher Tedeschi, assistant clinical professor of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital. "We've seen plenty of cases already this year from within the city."

The city Department of Health & Hygiene did not respond to requests for information on the number of poison ivy cases throughout the city.

Locals have been warning each other of poison ivy along Inwood Hill's trails for years, and the Parks Department notes that the plant is native species to the park.

"NYC Parks works to manage poison ivy when it encroaches onto a park pathway or lawn area," said Parks spokesman Philip Abramson via email. "In areas where spraying is not advisable, we will work to remove it by hand. In areas where it is within the forest and not accessible/touchable from a path, we will leave it in place since it is a native species."

Abramson added that more than 143 acres of Inwood Hill Park are designated as a Forever Wild Nature Preserve, a Parks initiative aimed at preserving and protecting native plants and wildlife in areas across the five boroughs.

In such an area, which includes the park's salt marsh, "We would not be spraying," Abramson said, before adding that Parks would look into the specific poison ivy outgrowth. 

To keep rashes and other allergic reactions away, Tedeschi advises park goers to learn to recognize the plant and then stay away.

"I think that the most important thing to know about poison ivy is how to prevent it," said Tedeschi. "And avoidance is the best prevention — 'leaves of three, let it be.'"