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West Farms Rapids

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, April 28, 2004


It was a perfect sunny day. The sky was clear; the air was warm; the breeze was gentle; and following a night of rain, the waters were high. A procession of canoes floated down a serpentine river. They passed bison, a double-crested cormorant, a belted kingfisher, mallards, squirrels, and pigeons.

It was the Fifth Annual Bronx River Flotilla. On Saturday, April 24, nearly 400 paddlers, Parkies, performers, community members, and elected officials took part in the event, which was coordinated by the Bronx River Alliance and Parks & Recreation, in partnership with dozens of community organizations. The Flotilla included a three and a half hour boat trip along six miles of the Bronx River, passing through the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Once ashore, the paddlers celebrated with local community groups at Concrete Plant Park, on the west bank of the river. The Bronx River Flotilla calls attention to the restoration of New York City’s only freshwater river.

The 23-mile Bronx River originates in a small brook near the Kensico Dam in Westchester County and flows into the Bronx, eventually making its way to the East River. Eight of its twenty-three miles meander through the city. During the mid-twentieth century, the Bronx fell into a period of urban decay and the river suffered. However, with the growth of the environmentalist movement in the 1970s, local residents grew more concerned with the health of the river, and in 1974, the Bronx River Restoration Project was born. The Bronx River Restoration succeeded in removing mountains of debris from the water. In 2001, the Bronx River Alliance was created to build upon the successes of the Bronx River Restoration Project. The Alliance now consists of over 65 community groups.

At Saturday’s event, the Flotilla consisted of 42 canoes and 4 kayaks. The procession began at 10:30 a.m. on the Bronx River at 219th Street near Bronx Boulevard. Along the way, at least five boats capsized (which apparently is not bad for 150 paddlers). Fortunately, everyone safely completed the journey.

"The river looked great due to the efforts of so many Parks and Bronx River Alliance staff and the help of our many partner organizations," said Executive Director of the Bronx River Alliance Linda Cox. "It was great to see so many folks enjoying the event."

At the afternoon celebration, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., residents enjoyed performances by the Contemporary Ballet Theater, Acentos, the Percussion Kids, the Danze Divas, and the circus group from The Point Community Development Corporation. Children made Amazing Bronx River Flotilla kites, played games sponsored by Parks & Recreation, and created works of art with the Bronx River Art Center and Living & Learning by the Arts. Rocking the Boat provided free boat rides to the public. Partnering organizations provided information on the river and environmental education activities.

During the celebration, many took the opportunity to praise the restoration of the river, including Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Linda Cox, and Bronx River Alliance Canoe Guide Jose Baez.

"Once again Parks & Recreation and the Bronx River Alliance celebrated the Bronx River with hundreds of Bronxites," commented Parks Bronx Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. "It was wonderful to see so many people celebrating the river. We have come a long way."

Sponsors of the Bronx River Flotilla included the Bronx Initiative on Energy and the Environment, Vista Foods, HSBC Bank, Snow Fresh Foods, Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association, Ponce De Leon Federal Bank, Patagonia, Coca-Cola, and Arizona Beverage Company.


"Night on the Great River"

We anchor the boat alongside a hazy island.
As the sun sets I am overwhelmed with nostalgia.
The plain stretches away without limit.
The sky is just above the tree tops.
The river flows quietly by.
The moon comes down amongst men.

Meng Hao-jan

Directions to West Farms Rapids

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