Mark your calendars, folks – Saturday, June 6 is the eleventh annual Hike the Heights celebration! For those who haven’t participated in years past, Hike The Heights is a big, awesome, community-building, parks-celebrating, enviro-stewardship-promoting party that takes place every year in gorgeous Washington Heights.
This is hands-down our favorite New York City summertime event and we’d love to have some company! Our gung-ho ioby crew will be meeting at 10:00 AM at 110th Street and Central Park West, right at the entrance to Central Park. Come join us; we’d love to share the trail and get to know you!
The day begins as hikers and neighbors take to the “Giraffe Path” from various start-points and embark on various hike lengths – and ends with a massive potluck when everyone finally gathers up at Highbridge Park’s Sunken Playground. Delicious food, local arts, music, dance, and oodles of neighborhood pride. Hike the whole darn thing or just a little bit of the path – or come just for the party! Last year’s celebration featured an awesome local middle school marching band, rock climbing tutorials (courtesy of REI, who sent trainers and equipment), and an interactive Capoeira performance that had everyone from toddlers to grandmothers up cheering and groovin’.
Whitney Skillen, Columbia MPH candidate and one of this year’s Hike organizers (along with her co-chair Celeste Russell, and City Life is Moving Bodies (CLIMB) directors Lordes Rodriguez and Mindy Fullilove), says that Hike the Heights has played a transformative role in how New Yorkers think of their parks. Picture your own local park on a recent sunny day… you practically had to give your firstborn for blanket space, right? Well, unbelievable as it may be to those who know only the New York of today, fifteen years ago, many of our parks, including Highbridge, were so dangerous and rundown that residents just didn’t use them.
“The main goal was to bring life back to the parks,” says Skillen of the Hike’s original mission. “They were in total disrepair. They were a breeding ground for crime and drug use, and CLIMB thought that if there was a way that community-members could re-engage with their parks and take back ownership of the parks then the city would realize that the parks were important and bring them back to life. And that’s kind of what they’ve done over the last ten years. Trails have been repaired, benches have been repaired, basketball courts have been repaired. It’s a nice place to be now. Getting the community behind the parks is what really did it.”
Hike the Heights leaders have for several years now raised funds on ioby: this year they’re aiming to raise more than $14,000 for their best party yet! We love this event so much that we admit to having a giraffe-shaped place in our hearts year-round. So if you’re not already hiking with a particular group, feel free to round up (and sign up!) a cohort from your school, church, biking club, book club – or come walk with us! As Skillen wisely says, “this type of work is true public health practice.”