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.
What is your favorite place in the Park?
My favorite place in Van Cortlandt would be the circle at Rockwood drive in the Northwest Forest. I’ve spent the most time in that part of the park, so that area created a lot of good memories. The other reason I like that spot is because you’re in the middle of three very different areas: North of the circle will take you into the Northwest forest and leave you in Yonkers, East of the circle will lead you over the Hudson parkway and through a smaller forest into the Parade Grounds, and West will bring you back to Broadway and the rest of society.
What is your favorite memory of the Park or event you have participated in?
My favorite event is the annual Philharmonic on the parade grounds. I’ve gone with my family many times when I was younger and I went last year with my friends. It’s also the only time I could ever comfortably watch a real firework show, without the standing mob that’s all way too close to each other.
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?
I would like to see a bigger emphasis on restoring and maintaining the forested areas in Van Cortlandt. I’m glad the initiative was taken to start forest restoration programs, however I believe that the only way to ensure success is to make the forest a priority. Any restoration site needs constant and proper maintenance, therefore a 600 acre forest with miles of looping trails can get out of hand very quickly and would require a significant amount of resources and people to handle. The majority of people I’ve encountered with an interest in this field (aside from anyone I’ve worked with) are teens and young adults. I think that if the master plan included a budget for the addition/expansion of restoration programs, they should look toward that generation because they have the best combination of interest, ability to do hard work, and lack of employment.