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Van Cortlandt Park

The Daily Plant : Thursday, February 22, 2001


On February 21, 2001, a representative of State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation visited Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx to view the restoration of a bridle trail there, completed with a $33,250 grant from his office. The day was sunny, the air cold, and as Randy Brewer and Robert (Walker) Bealin, supervisor of the reconstruction, set out, they saw three horses and their riders gallop past. The Van Cortlandt/Pelham Bay Natural Resources Crew has reconstructed 2,200 feet of bridle trail and the result is a path that welcomes riders even in the middle of February.

During the spring and fall of 2000, Robert Bealin and his crew: Felix Rodriguez, APSW; Kevin Jenkins, CPW; Fred Vairo, APSW; and Joe Hawkes, APSW, performed a range of tasks to make the trail usable and smooth the way for horses and their riders. The crew cleared culverts, constructed drainage trenches, excavated material, installed trail edge forms, and added fill material. The new trail surface is composed of compacted crushed stone and stone dust. In the final stages of restoration, the borough crew erected a wood split rail fence along the portion of the trail that runs against the golf course parking lot.

To explain the soil damage a year of riding can cause, Bob painted an evocative picture. Consider the effect, he said, of a 2,000 pound animal on the 6-inch oval of soil beneath each hoof. With every pounding gallop, the animal drives excess water deeper into the soil. The result of years of pounding is a muddy, slippery surface that's bad for water drainage and hazardous for the horse and rider. In the effort to minimize the muck along the trail, woodchips were added. These, it turned out, worsened the problem by clogging the catch basin and flooding a neighboring lot. Months of reconstruction have repaired years of water damage and promise to prevent its recurrence.

Bob and his crew began reconstruction at trail level minus 3,000 to 3,500 cubic yards of material. Only after eliminating the top layers of trail could they find soil sturdy enough to sustain construction. Then they leveled and compacted the soil. Diverting the water away from parking lots and toward appropriate channels required 12 culverts, or French drains, the longest of which extended a full 120 feet. The crew layered these newly dug trenches with 3/4 and 3/8-inch gravel, filter fabric, and pulverized stone dust-a careful blend designed to separate hoof from water.

Work on the bridle trail, completed December 29, 2000, was one of the larger reconstruction projects undertaken at the park. It ranks with work on the cross-country trail in Van Cortlandt Park and the installation of an herb garden in the Van Cortlandt House Museum.

Pelham Bit Stables operates a concession there for school groups, families who wish to rent a horse for a day, and private owners who make use of its stables and the scenic trail. The concession is conveniently located just off of the last stop of the number 6 train.

(Thursday, March 3, 1988)


Work for Parks horticulturists doesn't stop with the arrival of bone-chilling weather. In fact, Parks gardeners are learning that often the real work begins during the colder months of the year. On Staten Island, the City's Department of Transportation (DOT) wanted to widen and straighten Rockland Avenue (which crosses the Greenbelt) from Manor Road to Brielle Avenue. The sloping and sharply winding road has been responsible for a number of traffic fatalities.

Staten Island gardeners, working closely with DOT, designed an environmentally sensitive reconstruction of Rockland Avenue that took into consideration pedestrian and wildlife crossings and the replanting of uprooted trees.


"Who drives the horses of the sun
Shall lord it but a day."

John Vance Cheney (1848-1922)

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

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