Friend of the Month- May 2015

Congressman Eliot Engel, in the middle, at last year's Trail Master Killah race in Van Cortlandt Park.

Congressman Eliot Engel, in the middle, at last year’s Trail Master Killah race in Van Cortlandt Park.

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are pleased to announce that our May 2015 Friend of the Month is Congressman Eliot Engel. Congressman Engel has always been an active supporter of parkland, especially those in his district which includes all of Van Cortlandt Park. The Friends are most thankful for the Congressman supporting the very first professional Trails Crew for the Park. He has also been an advocate for the Pedestrian Bridge over the Major Deegan. We are pleased that he will be honored and officially thanked at our Picnic Supper the evening of the Philharmonic next month.

How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
My good friend, Marcia Allina, who is a long-time member of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, first introduced me to the group years ago. I had also heard great things about the innovative work FVCP had been doing from various other members of the community. I have always been proud of my lifetime record in Congress on environmental matters. As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over environmental legislation, I have always been engaged in these issues. I am pleased to have received high marks from the League of Conservation Voters over my career. The preservation of our parklands and greenways has always been a passion and priority of mine. As such, I knew FVCP was an organization I wanted to work with to help keep the Bronx as green as possible. Read more »

John Muir Trail: Upcoming Projects

A few of our Trails Crew members after installing check dams on the John Muir Trail in Van Cortlandt Park last fall.

A few of our Trails Crew members after installing check dams on the John Muir Trail last fall.

The John Muir trail, established back in 1997 through a joint effort of the Van Cortlandt Park Rangers and the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park interns, is currently the only east-west traversing trail in the Park connecting Woodlawn to Riverdale. A couple of short sections of the trail wind along and below the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Major Deegan but for the majority of the John Muir trail, it holds true to its namesake. The trail runs alongside a cascading stream and through Sugar Maple forests of the Croton Woods. Pink blazes on the trees mark the running of the trail.

In 2011, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park secured funding to hire the New York/ New Jersey Trail Conference to install the stone stairs you see on the trail as it runs beside the Henry Hudson Parkway. Last year, the FVCP Summer Teen Trail Interns worked on the drainage of the trail as it runs alongside the golf fence to halt erosion that had created gullies in the trail. They also annually keep the trail open and wide enough for trail users to comfortably walk the trail. Read more »

John Muir: The Man & The Trail

John Muir, a naturalists and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States, has a trail named in his honor in Van Cortlandt Park.

John Muir, a naturalists and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the U.S., has a trail named in his honor in Van Cortlandt Park.

John Muir was famous for his contribution to naturalism in the 1800’s. He was one of the founding members of the Sierra Club, a major environmental organization that is still prevalent today. A famous 211 hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada is named after him, but if you are not to canny on flying out there, or cannot stomach the thought of hiking 211 miles through rough terrain, then fear naught, for there is another John Muir trail in our very own Van Cortlandt Park.

The John Muir is one of the major trails running through Van Cortlandt, and is the only East-West trail, allowing patrons to have easier access to the park’s amenities and natural wildlife. Van Cortlandt is teeming with a variety of plants, animals, arachnoids and insects. The beauty of the park might be scathed by the multiple roadways running through it, but John Muir would be proud to know that we at the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are aiming to improve the John Muir Trail’s aesthetics and accessibility (more about that in our next blogpost). Read more »

Friend of the Month- April 2015

Our April Friend of the Month and former intern working to improve the forests in Van Cortlandt Park.

Our April Friend of the Month and former intern, Michael Alfano working to improve the forests in Van Cortlandt Park.

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are happy to announce our April Friend of the Month- Michael Alfano. Michael was an intern with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park’s Environmental Internship program for two consecutive years and the summer in between while in high school. Today, Michael is back working in Van Cortlandt Park as a city employee working with the Van Cortlandt Forest Restoration crew. The Friends have enjoyed working with Michael to complete forest and trail restoration projects in the Park and hope to continue doing so for a long time to come. The Friends thank you, Michael, for continuing to care for our beloved park.

How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?

I first learned about the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park through the Riverdale Neighborhood House in 2009. I had just turned 14 and was looking for my first job, but I didn’t want to work at a store or do deliveries. RNH would post applications for the internship and I was excited to see a paying job that worked in the park by my house. Read more »

Cass Gallagher, Part 3

Vernal pools hide off the sides of this trail where salamanders and frogs call home in Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, NY.

Vernal pools hide off the sides of this trail where salamanders and frogs call home.

In the final blogpost in our series on Cass Gallagher.  John Butler shares with us information about the Cass Gallagher Trail and upcoming projects that the Friends will complete to improve it for our park users.

Named after the amazing Bronxite Cass Gallagher, the nature trail found in the Northwest Forest winds through the hilliest sections of Van Cortlandt Park, hugging ridge lines while passing by vernal pools. This loop was once paved and since then continues to maintain this asphalt base. During large snow melts in the Spring and large heavy rains, the Cass Gallagher Trail will have water flowing straight down its hills. Our goal is to remove that water from the trail and place it into the nearby forests while continuing to keep this trail open and stimulating for parks users. Read more »

Cass Gallagher, Part 2

The second post in our three part series on Cass Gallagher.  Matthew Melore shares with us some of Cass Galllagher’s thoughts on the Bronx of her times and how many of the issues are still relevant today.

The Bronx has changed a great deal since the day Cass Gallagher helped found the first Friends of Van Cortlandt Park in 1978. We, the citizens, have survived urban plight, a few recessions and through it all, managed to build a better safer Bronx for everyone that chooses to live here. Unfortunately the Bronx, as well as Van Cortlandt Park still has many of the same problems that Cass Gallagher pointed out during her interview with the Bronx Historical Society in 1983. Cass Gallagher and the citizens of the Bronx today know how much of a gem their borough is, and know the only thing stopping their rich community from greatness is the stigma that the Bronx is a second-class borough, propagated by underhanded funding and hypercritical policies, stagnating it’s people. Cass knew how it was, and still is. Today we won’t be discussing her role as a park advocate; instead we will discuss the Bronx she knew in the 1980’s. Read more »