We are happy to announce that our November 2014 Friend of the Month is Geraldine McCleave. Geraldine is relatively new force in the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park world but she is quickly making her presence known. As a Woodlawn resident, she is advocating for improvements in the Northeast Corner of the Park. She is helping the Friends to rally community residents to volunteer and trying to secure funding to restore the hillside and old wooden steps near Healy Field. On November 15th, Gerry and her volunteers will be removing invasives, planting native flowers and grasses along with daffodil bulbs and working on controlling erosion on the hillside. Anyone interested in volunteering is welcomed to join us at 10am at Van Cortlandt Park East and Kepler Avenue.
How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
The FVCP newsletter advertised a Spring hike that began in Woodlawn on a Saturday morning. It was a fine day, just cool enough to enjoy the movement and an azure blue sky with an occasional cloud skidding by. The trees were still not in full leaf so we had a good perspective of the geography of the park as we went up and down the trails from east to west. The other hikers were a friendly group and the hike leader, Christina Taylor, knew just the right amount of speed to keep us involved and together. As we would pass through the different parts of the park Christina would tell us a brief history providing us with insight into the land we were traversing. A beautiful day and I was hooked!
What is your favorite place in the Park?
Now, that is a hard question as I am constantly being surprised by the breadth of this wonderful park. Just recently we were tromping around the Northeast woods and found so many pretty places rich in old trees and indigenous undergrowth creating a beautiful peaceful setting. As a lover of history these old woods seemed to breathe how it must have been 200 years ago when the British attacked and the Indians came to the aid of the early settlers only to be slaughtered by the Brits. The trees sigh their sad plight. I also enjoy the area of Indian Field as it gives a vista of green and trees and a place to rest when I am biking.
We live in a great city that is sorely lacking in green and this park provides us this with the high treeline and the expanses of calming green fields on both the east and west sides of the park. Just imagine how grim our NYC lives would be without Van Cortlandt Park to hike, bike, run, stroll, play soccer, play baseball, walk your dog, take the kids for a swing and have a picnic to name just a few of the possibilities.
What is your favorite memory of the Park or event you have participated in?
This summer I taught painting in the park and I loved meeting the many wonderful people who came to the classes. We all learned from each other as we studied the treeline, the skies and the colors in the park for our art work.
Parks just completed a Master Plan for the Park, what improvements would you like to see in Van Cortlandt Park in the next 20 years?
The very first thing that comes to mind is the planned waterfall in the northern area of Tibbett Brook as it would rejuvenate the stream and we could listen to its music as it splashes onto the rocks and watch the water cascading over the fall as it rushes downstream.
The idea to have a path around the circumference of the East side of the park is a wonderful one as it will give those who are joggers and bicyclists (like me) a safe and interesting course for our exercise.
So very important is the planned walking bridge over the Deegan Expressway. This highway has divided our parkland into an east and west making it difficult to go from one side to the other – the bridge would correct that and would enhance the entire park. When so many acres were taken from the park to build the new water filtration plant the park was promised this bridge along with other compensation.