Urban Hiker Treks Through New York City to Highlight the Importance of Park Access
Liz Thomas once held the women’s record for hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Now, she’s on a nine-day hike across the five boroughs. As Alex Colletta reports, Thomas hopes this urban trek will highlight the need to support playgrounds and parks across the city.
COLLETTA 1: It’s 6:50 in the morning at P.S. 7 Milton Fein School in the Bronx. I’m at the school’s playground with Liz Thomas, a long-distance wilderness and urban hiker. She’s in the midst of her 175-mile hike around the city. And she’s about to embark on today’s journey.
THOMAS: This is day three of nine.
COLLETTA: And how many miles is that?
THOMAS: I think the first day was 20 miles and yesterday was about 20 miles as well. (0:11)
She’s wearing Ultra Paradigm shoes. They look like ordinary pink running shoes, but they’re not.
THOMAS: This model is designed for people who do 100-mile races on road. (0:04)
The Trust for Public Land asked Thomas to do this hike. They’re a non-profit organization that helps protect rural lands and build and maintain parks throughout the country. It’s just renovated its 201st playground in New York City. They’re all in public schools. Like the one we’re at now. It’s got new monkey bars and a slide.
THOMAS: Oh, this one has a labyrinth, which is really cool! (0:03)
Carter Strickland is the New York State Director of the Trust for Public Land. He says they want Thomas’s hike to draw attention to the city’s parks and playgrounds.
STRICKLAND: You don’t have to walk 175 miles or nine days like she’s doing. Just walk ten minutes to your closest park and maybe someday people will be inspired to hike some of our great trails in this country and more wilderness areas. (0:13)
It’s cheaper for a non-profit to renovate playgrounds than it is for the city. That’s according to Eli Dvorkin. He’s the Editorial and Policy Director at the Center for an Urban Future—a New York City think tank.
DVORKIN: Its costs are roughly half of what the Parks Department end up paying. Part of it is that the level of oversight and bureaucracy that’s required to manage and approve capital projects on the city level adds tremendously to the cost. (0:14)
Dvorkin says that shouldn’t let the city off the hook, though. The city still hasn’t met its goal of renovating 290 playgrounds by 2010.
Thomas has hiked 200-mile routes in LA, San Francisco, Portland and other major cities. She says she’s been wanting to hike New York for a while, but was waiting for the right reason.
THOMAS: That really resonates with me, this idea of bringing nature, bringing trees, giving green spaces to kids while they are at school.
Thomas will end her hike today around 7pm at PS 130 in the Bronx. Tomorrow, she’ll put her Ultra Paradigm shoes back on and push forward toward 175 miles.
Alex Colletta, Columbia Radio News.