Over the last three plus years, this paper has been relentless in its effort to highlight the Department of Parks and Recreation’s failure to fix up Van Cortlandt Park’s Parade Ground in a timely manner.
We bemoaned what the fenced-off field meant for neighborhood kids of all ages, who use the grounds for everything from softball to Frisbee.
We noted the damage the fields’ closure meant for local businesses, which rely on the foot traffic generated by team sports at the field.
We made noise about the Parks Department’s failure to notify the public when it came up against delays and how it chose contractors that initially failed to plant grass that “knitted” properly, setting the project back more than a year.
We worried that our nationally renowned cross country trail, which has traditionally attracted top teams from far and wide, would permanently lose its appeal as teams found new places to run, places where the route didn’t constantly change to make room for seemingly endless renovations.
The Press has a special relationship with the park. Our offices look out on the Parade Ground field and we have watched each phase of construction with bated breath, waiting for the day the fences would come down and the field would once again be dotted with clustered patches of team colors, crowding out the teams of geese which for a long time were the only creatures that dared go there. Sometimes we wondered whether the century-old park would have to wait another hundred years for the restoration to be complete.
Not to worry, that day has come.
As school gets under way, as the weather cools and the season of doing comes upon us, the sad, empty expanse has been restored to the swath of positive activity it had always been.
The grass that took so long to seed looks lush and green. The sounds of student cheers and coaches commands emanating from the field are welcome signs of life in a part of the neighborhood that is sleepy and dull without them.
Now that our neighborhood gem is back, we only hope those that have long used it come back more quickly than the slow-knitting grass.
We applaud the high school Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, which will return to Vannie on Saturday, Nov. 24 after a three-year absence. And we hope that others follow their lead.
The NCAA Northeast Regional has stayed away for four years and has not yet committed to return.
The historic Ivy League Heptagonal cross-country championship will not return next year, but we hope that it will make come back the year after.
For those still deciding whether to come back, we beckon you. It has never been more beautiful and more inviting, and — thanks, in part, to the trail maintenance efforts of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park — it’s still the premier cross-country route in the nation.
As Brett Hoover wrote on armorytrack.com: “Ah yes, running is back in fenceless fashion in the Bronx.”