The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are happy to announce that our March 2016 Friend of the Month is Parker Gambino. Parker is an entomologist who has been using Van Cortlandt Park to study insects, especially bees and wasps, for years. Last year, he played a vital role in the first ever BioBlitz in Van Cortlandt Park by compiling all of the data collected. Parker has also worked with our high school interns, teaching a lesson on ecological niches and compiling data on insect use of species specific seeds for egg laying and over wintering. Currently, he spends his days teaching biology at Greenwich High School. However, he will be retiring soon and we have already started making plans for how he can work with the Friends on a more regular basis. Thank you, Parker, for all that you have done for the Friends and for helping us understand the insect world of Van Cortlandt Park.
How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
Although I had been aware of the Friends and our overlapping interests for some time, I did not get involved until I found out at the 2015 Bronx Parks Speakup about the BioBlitz in May 2015. I saw the utility of my expertise and experience in organizing the scientific survey aspect of this event, and compiled the list of 442 species with the cooperation of the numerous participating professional and citizen scientists, and the student interns that we trained.
What is your favorite place in the Park?
Tough call, too many choices! There’s a certain rock up near Rockwood Circle far enough away from the surrounding paths to experience a decent degree of solitude. Watching some dragonfly dart out from its perch to grab its flying prey makes it even more sublime.
What is your favorite memory of the Park or event you have participated in?
Another tough call, so I’ll narrow it down to two. 1) Tibbetts Brook just below the Yonkers line used to widen out into a substantial lake to the east of the Henry Hudson Parkway. That was a favored destination for the motley assortment of neighborhood kids that I was a part of. Especially during summer, we could spend a day away from adult supervision, fishing, exploring nature (I was better at collecting bait than actually catching fish), dashing along the open old-field of Vault Hill terrorized (we believed) by the fearsome-looking cicada-killer wasps. 2) There is a large hill on the golf course visible from the Major Deegan; in the early 1960’s it was a ski slope with a tow-rope, but before that it was just a hill that was the ultimate sledding run for us kids.
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 daylighting of Tibbetts Brook would be a profound quantum-leap development. It’s definitely time to think big about such a project, bound to enrich the urban experience in untold ways, including an extended mindfulness of the variegated history of the Old Put: at one point it ran from a turntable at lower Sedgwick Avenue up to Brewster (my home town) in Putnam County. For the nearer future, a more enhanced commitment to invasive weed control might effect a different kind of daylighting – of my now-degraded childhood haunts upstream, for starters.