The NYC Parks Department announced plans to widen and pave the Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park. The Putnam Trail is currently a dirt path that cuts through the park, between Van Cortlandt Lake and Tibbetts Brook.
When Parks announced their plans to pave the trail last spring, there was expressed disapproval from many park users and residents of the area. The concern of the surrounding community brought about the rise of the Save the Putnam Trail campaign, which rejects the planned pavement of the trail. The Parks Department plans for expansion involve paving a 10-foot-wide path over the currently 8-foot-wide trail, and then to include only three feet of an aggregate surface for runners and drainage purposes on one side, and a two-foot buffer on the other side. In total, this makes for a total expansion of the trail from 8 feet to 15 feet, nearly doubling its current width.
Michael Oliva, founder of Save the Putnam Trail and advocate for East Coast Greenway Alliance, commented on the campaign’s mission to preserve the trail. "This trail is a keystone in Van Cortlandt Park, the fourth largest park in New York City. To pave over this would be to pave over history. It is no secret that the Parks Department is putting the interests of a select few over the interests of the greater community."
While Save the Putnam Trail rejected the Parks Department plans to pave the trail, they did offer a viable alternative to the plan. Recognizing that the trail needs work, the campaign proposes to keep the trail at its current 8-foot width and to resurface it with a stone-dust surface that is similar to various other trails in the park. This plan would not only save taxpayers money but would preserve the environment as well as historic character of the trail. Equally as important, a stone-dust trail adequately meets the ADA requirements that the federal money funding the project requires.
Save the Putnam Trail is supported by a variety of park users and individuals from the surrounding community including birdwatchers, fisherman, walkers, and runners alike. Concerned for the well-being of the trail and the park, when asked how they felt about the Parks Department decision to pave the trail, one member of the community stated that these plans were, “A contradiction of the ‘forever wild’ policy.” Another user of the trail also stated his concern for the natural environment saying, “We want to keep as much wildlife and natural habitat as we can. It’s hard enough to find a little peace and tranquility within the city limits and the Putnam Trail is one of the few places where you can still do that.”
This 1.5 mile long trail occupies the old rail bed, which was once part of New York Central Railroad’s Putnam Division. The old railway has now become a historic wooded trail through the heart of Van Cortlandt Park that connects to the extensive Westchester bike trail system on the Bronx - Yonkers border.
Here is a list of coverage the campaign has already garnered:
The Riverdale Press: http://riverdalepress.com/stories/Parks-and-retribution,49298
The Riverdale Review: http://bronxpresspolitics.blogspot.com/2011/10/runners-vs-cyclists-on-p…
This rail-trail is 20 years in the making. It was part of a Bronxwide greenway plan of over 100 miles of trails that was approved by all Bronx Community Boards and the Borough Board in 1993 and re-validated by the Borough Board in 2007. It is the only north south paved class 1 bike lane in the Bronx that connects to bike lanes in Westchester County. It runs parallel to the Old Croton Aqueduct which is an unpaved pedestrian path; that was the point, to plan for both. There was supposed to be a bike lane along the old Getty Square Branch RR right of way when the Cross Country trail was refurbished. That was supposed to connect to a bike lane past the stables and then to a lane long Mosholu Avenue and eventually to the River near the Riverdale Train station where there is now waterfront access. The bike part never happened even though the cross country trail was refurbished with Federal transportation act dollars. The Getty Square branch would make a perfectly fine unpaved running trail with a little work at the end to make a loop to other trails. And of course people can always run on the Putnam either the to be paved part or the part the won't be paved.
In addition, Mike Oliva no longer works for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, but when he did he was in favor of making this a primary route between NYC and Westchester for ECG, and yes paving. In fact, ECG has strongly endorsed the current plan to pave the connector, and has written to all Community Boards involved, as well as local officials.