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Barge In Brooklyn Letting People Forage For Free

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City boasts 30,000 acres of parkland.

People are prohibited from picking any fruits off the plants in those parks, but one artists has created a space where you can forage for free.

In the midst of a concrete jungle, the forest, called Swale, lives on a barge in Brooklyn.

"It's magical. It's already magical to be in a green space in a dense city. So then when you come onto this barge and it's moving, but you think you're on land, because you look at this hill," Mary Mattingly told CBS2's Steve Overmyer.

Mattingly is an artist. Her passion project has turned an industrial piece of machinery into a floating piece of nature.

"We wanted Swale to be experimental. So you come onto the water and have the ability to pick edible plants and medicinal plants," she explained. "A lot of it is about the movement and being close to the water and being close to nature within the city."

The barge has docked at multiple locations but now calls Brooklyn Army Terminal home, enhancing the community. It's not only free to the public, every plant is edible.

"So many people have just stopped by the barge, just seen the barge and hopped on and then learned how to plant something or taken free food home with them, which is incredible," said Ryan Birchmeier, of the Economic Development Cooperation.

On Friday, one family found carrots to transplant to their garden, and an apple tree was about to find a new home at a park in the Bronx.

"Trees are quite real resilient. You never know, it could die, but it might be OK if you prune it back real hard and give it more energy in the roots," Mattingly said.

The $7,000 a month it costs to operate is covered by city grants, crowdfunding and the artist herself.

A food barge might not be scale-able to feed a city of eight million people, but in a city with 30,000 acres of parks, the barge proves some can feature edible produce.

"Hopefully with momentum, with more urban gardeners, with more farms in the city," said Mattingly. "We hope projects like this can also push policy to change."

Until then, the new cool is "barge-to-table" produce. The barge will be open this weekend from 12 to 6 p.m.

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