The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are excited to announce our September 2014 Friend of the Month- Bette Clark, President of the Van Cortlandt Track Club (VCTC). Earlier this month, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and the Van Cortlandt Track Club hosted the 2nd Annual B’Ramble- the first race in the Run for the Trail Series to raise funding for the Cross Country Course. Bette Clark plays a vital role in organizing the entire Run for the Trail Series along with other races that VCTC hosts. As an avid runner, Bette has become an advocate for Van Cortlandt Park trails by helping to maintain them and by encouraging others to get out on the trails. Bette Clark is a true friend of Van Cortlandt Park and we are truly lucky to have her as one. And if you are a runner or thinking about starting to run, we highly encourage you to join Bette and her friends at the Van Cortlandt Track Club.
How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
I joined the Van Cortlandt Track Club 10 years ago after discovering the trails in the park and wanting to explore more with people who knew the park. I soon learned of the work that Friends does to look after the trails and introduce the public to the park through its wonderful programs, particularly those dedicated to young people to teach them about natural resources. I also learned that the Van Cortlandt Track Club had a long history of a close connection with Friends, and soon was volunteering on the trails and learning much more about the programs in the Park. We have been collaborating even more over recent years, by co-hosting races in the park to raise funds for programs that help to maintain the trails. I hope this relationship between VCTC and Friends grows even stronger! As a runner, I am so very appreciative of the opportunity to run on beautiful trails in the middle of an urban environment and know that many others feel this way–We all need to find even more ways to contribute to our unique park.
What is your favorite place in the Park?
I have so many favorite places in the park! I love running on the Cross Country course and back trails in all the different seasons, on the unpaved part of the Putnam Trail, and I love being on the smaller, unnamed paths and trails that criss-cross through the woods. Another very special place is on the rocky promontory overlooking the Parade Grounds. It’s so hard to believe you are in New York City when you are enjoying the natural beauty of the Park.
What is your favorite memory of the Park or event you have participated in?
While I have many great memories of the Park–concerts and picnics on summer evenings, seeing rabbits ahead on the trail during early morning runs, sun glinting through the trees at sunset–I think maybe snowshoeing on the trails just after a snowstorm might stand out the most. Making tracks through the park when it was blanketed with deep snow made me feel like an explorer in the northern tundra. It was so quiet and magical!
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 the natural beauty of the park preserved as much as possible–the wetlands that provide a home to rare salamanders, the areas that welcome ground nesting birds, and harbor native plants and trees. I know that there is need for improvement–trail maintenance, such as removing old ties on the Old Putnam, clearing invasive species, improving signage and directions around the park, repairing broken concrete steps, uniting parts of the park now separated by highways with a foot bridge, finding ways to keep ATV’s off the trails–but there is no need to make major changes to the Park as a whole. Van Cortlandt Park is unique in its mission and history as a natural resource–and it does not need to be made more like the city around it by adding more pavement, broader paths, concession stands, etc. It is special and different from Central Park and other city parks precisely because it preserves it’s natural areas–let’s help more people learn to appreciate this jewel in the Bronx rather than make it just like the rest of NYC. As Thoreau said: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” While Van Cortlandt Park is not exactly “wildness”, it may be the closest many people who live in NYC can come to the experience of being connected to nature–and it is right here in the Bronx.