The current Parks Department plan calls for a 10-foot paved path, with a 3-foot earthen jogging path on one side and a 2-foot buffer to absorb runoff on the other side. Construction was supposed to begin in 2013. But after strong objections from activists, Ms. Greenfeld said the department has been collecting more feedback over the past several months, and has made some changes to their original plan.
She added that the Parks Department will present its updated plan at a future Community Board 8 meeting, though she did not want to reveal specifics until then. However, she confirmed that the most controversial part of the plan remains.
“The paving of [the Putnam Trail] is a critical part, it needs to be paved to make it available to bicyclists, people in wheelchairs and strollers,” she said.
Activists contend the paving will damage the environment in order to accommodate commuters. Some have suggested covering the path with stone dust instead of asphalt.
Ms. Greenfeld explained because the Putnam Trail would be the only paved bike path like it in Van Cortlandt Park, and because the trail sits on top of old railroad tracks, the area is already disturbed.
“We’re not talking about an area that is untouched. It’s already impervious to water. When it rains, you can see it puddle,” she explained.
Ms. Argenti strongly disagreed. She contended that a path covered in stone dust — like the fine gravel that covers a path at the Van Cortlandt Parade Ground — would be a more environmentally-friendly alternative, allowing bicyclists to enjoy the path and still be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. If the final plan does include asphalt, Ms. Argenti said she wants to see proof that the Parks Department will take every precaution possible to preserve the wetlands.
“It’s not about the path,” she said. “We need to use this opportunity to enhance the wetlands, not make it worse.”
Ms. Greenfeld, whose job mainly involves conservation and protecting natural resources, stood by the department’s plan.
“I feel comfortable with this project because of everything we’re doing in the park,” she said. “I strongly believe that we’re doing the best we can to protect the ecosystem.”