BUSHWICK — Explore a sanctuary for migratory birds, more than 50 acres of sprawling forest and the remains of three reservoirs that used to provide water for Brooklyn.
The little known parts of the borough are the focus of guided tours led by local organization NYC H2O.
They're taking place in the Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park for the next two weekends, and will offer special access to a trail that curves around three decommissioned reservoirs that are usually off-limits.
"It's become like a de facto nature preserve," said Matthew Malina, founder of NYC H2O that offers educational ecology tours for New Yorkers of all ages.
"It's really a beautiful place."
From 1858 to 1959, the three reservoirs in Highland Park supplied fresh water to Brooklyn and had capacity for 154 million gallons. The water traveled to the area by way of an aqueduct system that originated in Nassau County, according to the Parks Department.
Starting in the early 1900s, the city was busy fortifying the Delaware System that diverted water from tributaries of the Delaware River. Once that was completed the Ridgewood Reservoir was no longer needed, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Still, the three pools provided a backup water supply for two more decades until the late 1980s when two of them were drained. Lush greenery soon popped up in the two empty basins.
"It's a good example of what we call forest succession or ecological succession," said Malina. "These seeds just flew through the air and fell into the reservoir and a forest sprung up."
The third reservoir still has water in it and the whole property was transferred to the Parks Department in 2004.
Malina often leads tours with school kids and says parent chaperones are always shocked at the extent of the wilderness so close to home.
"'We can just come here anytime we want?'" parents wonder, Malina said. "Yup, it's a city park."
NYC H2O is leading two free walking tours of the reservoir April 30 at 10 a.m. and May 8 also at 10 a.m. More information here. Tours meet in the parking lot at 1 Vermont Place which you can reach by bike or Van Siclen Avenue J, Z trains.