Putnam Trail documentary wins acclaim


When Will Sanchez invited one of the co-founders of the Save the Putnam Trail campaign onto his television talk show, he did not expect the appearance would inspire him to make a second show and an acclaimed, eight-minute documentary.

Save the Putnam Nature Trail focuses on the Department of Parks and Recreation’s controversial efforts to pave and expand a nature trail in Van Cortlandt Park. 

The film, which was selected for the International Film Festival Manhattan last October, was recently nominated for Best Documentary in the Northeast Film Festival and selected by Jersey City’s Golden Door International Film Festival. 

“Everybody, regardless of who you are, should have access to nature,” said Mr. Sanchez, who hosts the Manhattan Neighborhood Network show “Gotta Run with Will,” focusing on runners who have also engaged in activism and community outreach and airing on “BronxNet.” 

In 2013, park-goers butted heads over the city’s plan to widen the 1.5 mile long trail along the former Putnam Railway from eight to 15 feet, paving 10 of those feet for use by bikers.

In the finalized Master Plan for the park released this past July, the Parks Department specified that the path be paved with flexible and non-toxic material. But advocates are still seeking to prevent any paving whatsoever, citing environmental concerns.

A longtime activist, Mr. Sanchez invited Save the Putnam Trail advocate Michael Oliva onto his show. After hearing about the issue, Mr. Sanchez decided to get involved in the cause.

On a Sunday afternoon last year, Mr. Sanchez and a film crew took a trip to the Putnam Trail, where they filmed people walking and running along the path and conducted interviewers with frequent park-goers.

The result, he said, was a testament to advocates’ concerns about altering the trail’s natural beauty.

“It was just amazing that the community had grown around this nearly 40-year-old trail, and they loved the trail, and just really wanted to keep it natural,” he said.

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