Sunday, December 21, 2014

Say no to paving over nature

By Michael Burke


How many Riverdalians, through the change in seasons, have enjoyed a hike along the trail through the woods between Palisade Avenue and the Hudson River? And each time marvel with boundless gratitude at this pastoral escape in, of all places, the Bronx? Well, I have a suggestion: let’s pave it over. To make it easier to bicycle on.

Why not? This is the plan the city Parks Department has for the bucolic Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park. Visit the trail now — it starts at the pond by the golf clubhouse — and follow it northward and you will find the perfect pastoral escape from our urban landscape. A dirt path, pounded by countless feet so it is now perfect for a leisurely walk, hiking and jogging, welcomes you. And for those who do not mind just a little bit of extra effort it is suitable for biking (I’ve seen families biking it together).

On the right as you head out are Canadian snow geese sunning in the pond. On the left you might see an egret launch himself from an ancient downed tree (this is the Bronx, I remind you). Quickly, the path narrows under a canopy of trees. Gold and red in the autumn; green in the spring and summer. Some have reported seeing deer on the trail. I have run it in the dead of winter with snow and ice on the trees and ground. It is an invigorating, majestic experience (I have not once, in the years I have run the trail, once encountered anything criminal or even inappropriate as past writers here have claimed).

When it rains you have to navigate around mud puddles and the century old railroad ties. Or, if you are running and if your pace feels particularly good that day and you do not want to interrupt it, you can run right through the mud. When you come out of the woods back by the pond and golf clubhouse, mud splattered all over your legs and up your back you, by God, feel great. You feel wonderfully alive.

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