Annual Fund 2021

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Van Cortlandt Park…. YOUR RECOVERY PLAN.

WOW! 2021 felt like getting back on the horse (or bike) and riding! Luckily, in
Van Cortlandt Park, you can do either or both! Together, we’ve ridden the road to recovery…. Hiking, running, walking, cycling, playing, stretching, or just relaxing outside has become an even bigger part of your life — and we are so thrilled to be
here for you.

The park continues to be busier than ever. Just this fall, our amazing historic trails welcomed 18,881 young people who ran Cross Country races in earnest. What an absolute delight to see high school and college students running free, competing hard, and laughing out loud! Thanks to you and your steadfast support, we were able to get the back hills ready for the running season with the help of seasonal staff and volunteers.

Of course, Hurricane Ida had different plans for us! Just as we thought we were ready to welcome runners, the storm blew in and ripped apart the newly packed trails. No matter. Van Cortlandt Park Alliance staff, along with our partners at NYC Parks, got to work and fixed the washed-out cross country trails yet again and restored pathways throughout the park.

With intense rain events becoming more frequent, the hard work of resetting paths and trails must happen multiple times a year. Materials like stone dust, wood, and screening are needed. Hiring seasonal staff adds much-needed capacity to our small team. Your help now means we can be ready when the next hard rain or big snowfall hits.

Brandon Alvarez volunteering in Memorial Grove, getting it ready for Veteran’s Day. Alvarez is a veteran and was a VCPA seasonal staff member last year.

The storms we’ve experienced recently only underscore that climate change is real and affects us here in the Bronx. Hurricane Ida caused historic flooding throughout the park. Water overflowed from the lake in the south end; park vehicles were submerged in water; the swimming pool was a catch basin for the overflow; and ultimately, stormwater poured out onto the Major Deegan, stopping traffic for days. And, as always, the excess water inundated the antiquated sewers on nearby Broadway. Extreme weather events will only continue and we need to be prepared.

This is why VCPA has been a vocal proponent of the plan to address flooding in the park and community. By “daylighting” Tibbetts Brook, NYC Parks and NYC DEP will create a scenic destination for visitors and an environmentally friendly stopover for birds and other wildlife! While there is no official design yet, the plan is to take water out of the overburdened sewer system and keep the new area as permeable as practicable. VCPA is your voice, ensuring this important green infrastructure plan happens for your park and community.

With the world swirling around us, Van Cortlandt Park is a microcosm of all the issues we hear about daily: Climate Change; Green Infrastructure; Environmental Justice.

And, we are doing our part in reframing history to tell a more complete and true story of how the park was built. On Juneteenth, Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, along with the Enslaved People Project Task Force, hosted a renaming of key sites in the park to honor the legacy of enslaved Africans who built, lived in, and died in the park. The Enslaved African and Kingsbridge Burial Grounds and Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond were officially renamed to memorialize the work of the many enslaved people who had previously been forgotten. Our work
in this arena has only just begun. Your support will make it possible for us to create and deliver more programming and hire staff to bring this essential story to light.

We have grand plans but we need your help to bring you what you deserve to recover fully and move forward. Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, working together with NYC Parks, aims to provide:

  • Excellence in environmental education
  • Improved sports fields and courts for baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis
  • Regular cleanup and stewardship by thousands of devoted volunteers
  • Constant care of Cross Country and Hiking Trails
  • Healthy woodland and aquatic ecosystems that attract and support wildlife
  • Ongoing advocacy for daylighting and city funding for park operations
  • Plans to lift up the legacy of the enslaved Africans and Indigenous people who built the park through the Enslaved People Project
  • Jobs for young people through internship programs
  • Clean, green grass for picnicking, listening to music, Barefoot Dancing, and other arts programming.

VCPA was instrumental in renaming the Enslaved AfricanBurial Ground and Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond. The burial groundwas consecrated on Juneteenth in a community ceremony.Back row: Rev. Dr. Hermon L. Darden, Christina Taylor, Peggy King Jorde,Nick Dembowski, Jacki Fischer, Laura Carpenter Meyers, DePrator,Judith Insell, Chief Baba Neil Clarke. Front Row: Olga Luz Tirado,Ashley Hart Adams, Kika Wright, Stephanie Ehrlich

Van Cortlandt Park is part of your life. It figures into your fitness plan, your social calendar, and your mental health strategy. Think of the park as your personal infrastructure! As you recover from what has been an extraordinary time, we ask you to think about the park’s recovery and support our work today so we can do even better to support you tomorrow.

With gratitude,

Stephanie Ehrlich
Executive Director, Van Cortlandt Park Alliance
Park Administrator, NYC Parks

P.S. The park is really big. Our staff is really small. Only with your help can we grow our capacity, hire more staff, and take on even more projects to make Van Cortlandt Park shine like the emerald jewel we know it can and should be. Please consider a gift to Van Cortlandt Park Alliance today, either securely online using form below or by mail. Your gift, no matter the size, will make a difference and help sustain the park.

In the drop-down menu below, select where you’d like your support to go:

  • Programs In Education, Stewardship, Research, and More

  • Field & Trail Fund (Seasonal Staff)

  • Trees, Shrubs, Plants, etc.

  • Enslaved People Project

  • Wherever It Is Needed Most!

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Your gift to Van Cortlandt Park Alliance (VCPA) is a tax-deductible contribution.
Our federal tax identification number is 13-3843182. VCPA  is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, IRS Section 170(b) (2) (iii) for both federal and state tax purposes.