Prospect Park was originally designed to be an idyllic piece of the county in the midst of the then rapidly expanding city of Brooklyn. The park was supposed to present a glorified vision of farm life, complete with its own flock of grazing sheep. In the way it presented a sanitized version of reality for escaping urbanites, it was like a Disney World of its time.

From its escapist beginnings, things got more real in Prospect Park over the years. Today the park is home to a flurry of joggers, cyclists, soccer players, barbecuers, and sun bathers, and sits in the midst of an incredibly diverse group of neighborhoods. To the West, Sothwest, and North are the trendy but beautiful brownstone districts of Park Slope, Prosepect Heights and Windsor Terrace, on the Northeast and East are Crown Heights and Brownsville, to the Southeast the bustling Caribbean neighborhood of Flatbush, and on the south Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a district of old mansions.

At the Northwestern corner of the park the designers placed a huge traffic circle on Flatbush Avenue and erected a triumphal arch. Grand Army Plaza is therefore reminiscent of landmark boulevards of European cities. Other grand circles are at other corners on the western side of the obtusely shaped park, at Bartel Prichard Square (really a circle), and Park Circle. On the northern side of the park one can find the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the public library, and bordering the park to the east is the Botanical Garden and the site of the old Ebbets Field. Within the park there are forests, waterfalls, a large lake, large open meadows, skating rinks, a tennis house, a boat house, and a grove featuring statues of the greatest classical composers. An important Revolutionary War battle took place within what would later become the park.

R. A. Lafferty once concieved of a planet and society called the Cameroi, which he (evidently) thought of as being his utopia (or dysutopia, he's that kind of an author). In it, there is but one kind of every possible landscape: one mountain range, one vast prairie, one large ocean, one long beach, one savannalands, one get the idea. Now, consider this transplanted into the Northeastern North American landscape entire, and shrunk into the confines of a large urban domain. Some parts are going to be miniaturized, some done away altogether (19th century science couldn't maintain, for instance, desert lands in this space, while we can), but it's all there, in a way that defies most people's expectations even now.

Such is Prospect Park.

No two places are the same! There is a Great Lawn, a forest with a Romantic ravine (subbing for mountain scenery), beyond which is the mysterious NetherMeade (a hidden forest close). There is an artificial wetlands, and a large lake (subbing for the sea). There are pavillions in every known (to the 19th century) archetectural style, from Chinese to Southern Neoclassic (think Tara), and it's also home to a particularly large species of dragonfly (about 10 cm.) that flies in formation in huge swarms. In short, a backdrop for every fantasy, made vest-pocket size and tidy.

It used to be a cliche of Hollywood screenwriters to have a character who, hailing from Noo Yawk, sighed for Mabel (or Mildred), and could not be dissuaded from the delusion that any vista in Europe wasn't bettered by (or at least equal to) Prospect Park.

Sorry. They were (mostly) right.

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