Press Releases

Friday, July 24, 2009
No. 73

Parks Restores Crotona Park's Indian Lake And Unveils New Amphitheater

Commissioner Benepe today joined Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene and Assembly Member Michael Benjamin to cut the ribbon on the ecological restoration of Indian Lake and the creation of a new amphitheater for outdoor performances at Crotona Park in the Bronx. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Junior Ranger Campers, Friends of Crotona Park and Crotona Park North Volunteers were also present. The ribbon cutting event was followed the inaugural performance at the amphitheater – “World Rhythms” drum and dance performance for kids presented by City Parks Foundation – and canoeing and catch-and-release fishing lessons at the lake offered by the Urban Park Rangers.

“For more than one hundred years, Crotona Park has been a flagship park in the Bronx, a 100-acre sanctuary of rolling hills and dramatic rock outcrops, lofty trees, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a pool, and a lake,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Now, thanks to $6.7 million from the Croton mitigation funds, Crotona Park – the “Central Park” of the Bronx – features an enlarged lake that has been restored to its natural splendor and a spectacular new stone amphitheatre that can host up to 700 people for summer events. Bronx residents now have new ways to enjoy this historic park, including canoeing, fishing, learning about lake ecology, and watching the performance arts in a dramatic new setting.”

The 3.3 acre Indian Lake, which is a natural spring-fed pond, received a $4.4 million ecological restoration to provide safe access to the lake, promote a healthy lake ecosystem, diversify the flora and fauna, control soil erosion and enhance the lake’s natural beauty. The existing concrete wall and paving along the perimeter of the lake was replaced with a natural shoreline with a graded slope, native and ornamental plantings to create a natural filter for water draining into the lake, landscaping, and a boulder beach that visitors can walk out on to approach the water. An underwater aeration system was installed in the lake to improve the living conditions for plants and aquatic life and create a healthy functioning ecosystem; since the installation, there has been an observed increase in the number and size of fish, as well as an uptick in the number of birds around lake.

The lake was also enlarged with the addition of a new stream bed that meanders through smaller ponds, under a new stone foot bridge in a classic 1950s design, and cascades into a small waterfall. New walkways, shade trees, benches, picnic tables, barbeque areas, drinking fountains and bicycle racks were placed near the lake and new ponds, creating greater recreational access in a previously unused area. Finally, the plaza in front of the Nature Center and adjacent to the lake was renovated with new granite seating and steps.

Phase 1 of the lake restoration was completed in late 2006 and included pathwork and restoration around the edge, wall removal, new site landscaping and seating and the installation of a well. The total budget for phase one was $2 million, which includes approximately $400,000 from the Borough President and two state grants totaling over $1 million.

The $2.3 million Croton-funded stone amphitheater is situated adjacent to the new stream and bridge and oriented north east towards the lake and boathouse to optimize performance viewing. This informal, natural outdoor performance space fits seamlessly into the hillside, using materials that compliment the adjacent rock outcroppings. The amphitheater itself is made of stone from Champlain Quarry in Clemens, New York. Adjacent amenities include drinking fountains, seating, and a nearby comfort station in the Boathouse. Easy access for pedestrians and vehicles is provided via the adjacent 12-foot wide pathway connecting to Claremont Parkway.

Commissioner Benepe also announced that the Urban Park Rangers will move in the Crotona Park Nature Center full-time and will provide a permanence presence in the park. The Rangers will continue to run the Junior Ranger Day Camp for kids ages 8-11 and offer increased outdoor programming such as canoeing, catch-and-release fishing, and lake ecology. This has historical significance because the first corps of Urban Park Rangers were based out of Crotona Park.

The lake restoration and amphitheater were funded as part of a $200 million investment in Bronx parks, financed by mitigation funds from the construction of the Croton Water Filtration Plant through the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Municipal Water Finance Authority. To date, Parks has completed thirty one Croton-funded construction projects totaling $64 million and twenty-one more projects totaling $60 million are currently in construction. There are twenty-three projects currently in design/procurement process totaling $74 million.

The 127 acre Crotona Park was acquired from Andrew Bathgate as part of the consolidation of the Bronx park system in 1888. Known at the time as “Bathgate Woods,” the park was already famous for its views, its trees, and its pond. From high points in the park one could see the Palisades of New Jersey to the west and the towers of Brooklyn Bridge to the south.

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