By Robert Ward, Trail Conference Volunteer
In the 1820s, New York City was confronted with a problem that could threaten the welfare of its citizens: a shortage of potable water. Facing rapid population growth, the city’s wells were running dry and becoming polluted. A commission was formed with instructions to go upstate and find a large, free-flowing river. Its members were instructed to purchase the land on either side of this stream so that a dam could be constructed, creating a reservoir of pure drinking water. The Croton River was chosen and John B. Jervis, one of America’s foremost engineers, was hired to oversee the construction of what is now known as the Old Croton Dam.
The dam itself, located a short distance upstream from the Taconic State Parkway Bridge, is a masonry dam with a core of earth. The original Croton Aqueduct, built mostly using a cut and cover method, starts a short distance east of the dam and travels to Ossining, through Yonkers, and into The Bronx. The route turns abruptly west to cross the High Bridge over the Harlem River—more on that modern marvel below—and turns right in Highbridge Park in Manhattan. The aqueduct travels south and ends in the Old Croton Reservoir, which is now the site of Bryant Park. Today, most of the route is owned by New York State as The Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway State Park.
The magnificent High Bridge, which connects Manhattan to The Bronx, was completed in 1848. It was designed by James Renwick, Jr., the architect of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and built by Jervis. It was constructed to resemble an old Roman aqueduct with five-foot-square stone granite columns marching across the broad valley of the Harlem River. However, in 1910, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted away a part of Marble Hill, creating the Harlem River Ship Canal, which required the removal of the bridge’s stone pillars. They were replaced by the modern steel arch bridge that you see today.
During the construction of the High Bridge for its original purpose of transporting water, one very large and two smaller pipes lay in the trough with cast iron “I” bars inserted at intervals in the sides to maintain the structure’s integrity. Dirt filled the rest of the area, and a brick walkway was laid in place to permit people to walk on the bridge. People did just that. They came by boat and wagon and even by New York and Hudson River Railroad train to walk on the bridge and take in the vista.
Less than 50 years after the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, New York City was very thirsty again. The old Croton Dam had outlived its usefulness for the ever-expanding metropolis. A new Croton Dam, with a spillway on the north side and an automobile road across the top, was constructed a few miles downstream. (Since Sept. 11, 2001, the road has been closed for security purposes.) Along with the new dam and reservoir, a new aqueduct, in the form of a bored tunnel, was constructed; this one has no surface features. Alas, not long after its construction, even this New Croton Dam and Reservoir were still not sufficient for the city’s water needs. But New York City’s want for other water sources is another story…
By 1955, the original aqueduct was leaking so badly that it was shut down and dewatered. In the 1970s, the Parks Department—now owners of the High Bridge—opted to close the walkway for safety reasons. Yet one group of citizens saw the bridge’s potential to continue serving modern-day residents.
Over 10 years ago, a grassroots initiative called the Highbridge Coalition was formed to try to persuade the Department of Parks to reopen the walkway. The group succeeded in getting Congressman Jose Serrano (Democrat-West Bronx) to release federal funds for the project, and in getting Mayor Michael Bloomberg to set aside a $60 million escrow fund to be used to rehab the bridge, if necessary. A report examining the state of the High Bridge indicated that it was structurally sound, but the “I” bars were rusting out and needed to be replaced. On January 13, 2013, work began on restoring the High Bridge. Workers removed the walkway, saving each brick and even some of the dirt, and replaced the old “I” bars with new, stainless steel ones before putting everything back in place. On June 6, 2015, the High Bridge footpath was officially reopened to the public.
Walk the High Bridge
Here are some ideas for walks along the right-of-way of the Old Croton Aqueduct.
1. Take Metro-North to Ossining. Walk uphill and follow the Old Croton Aqueduct footpath as far as the New Croton Dam. Cross the dam and then walk west on NY-129 to Harmon. Return via Metro-North at the Croton-Harmon Station.
2. Start from 242nd Street and Broadway in The Bronx (end of the 1 subway train). Take the Bee Line #1 bus to Warburton & O’Dell Avenues in Yonkers and walk to the Aqueduct. You can follow the footpath, with several marked detours, almost to Tarrytown. The #1 bus, on Broadway, will bring you back.
3. Start at either Kingsbridge Road and Grand Concourse (D subway train) or Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue (4 subway train). Walk west and follow the aqueduct to University Avenue; cross the street. The Bronx Community College campus (not open on Sundays) has restrooms in the student union building and park benches for lunch. Follow University Avenue south, and just before 170th Street, pick up the path. Cross the High Bridge and follow the access path only as far as the playfield. Walk across to the retaining wall and either take the ramp or stairs up to Edgecomb Avenue. Cross the street at the corner and stay on the sidewalk, past the school, and you will come to 168th Street & Amsterdam Avenue. Walk one more block and you will see a staircase and elevator leading to the subway mezzanine. The A express subway train is against the wall. A short tunnel leads to the 1 subway train station.
The High Bridge is administered by NYC Parks & Recreation. Current hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Directions for reaching the bridge can be found on the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct and NYC Parks websites. The map/guide The Old Croton Aqueduct in New York City, published by Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, describes the route of the Aqueduct, the history, and sites along the way. It can be purchased from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference or from the Friends.]]>
“I just wrote it off as I’ll never ride a bike and I’ll have to stick to spin class,” she says of her years of putting off learning to ride. Wax, who is a U of M graduate and works at Entellus Medical in Plymouth, loved her spin class. “Stationary biking was ‘safest’ before the real thing,” she admits.
Wax heard about the Learn-to-Ride program from her mom, who heard about it on WCCO in the fall of 2014. She knew her daughter had been trying to ride since childhood, trying many times on and off, struggling to stay upright. “My mom wasn’t pushy—more like ‘Hey, in case you want to try it again,’” recalls Wax. “I was like, ‘Oh, man. I have to wait until next spring?” she laughs.
That desire and enthusiasm bode well for her during the four-week class, hosted out of Spokes in Minneapolis. Each of the four Learn-to-Ride classes is 90 minutes long and takes place at Matthews Park. “The first week we got acclimated with our bike, stretched, practiced not ‘death-gripping’ the handlebars, tried to move the bike with our feet on the ground, and just get used to being on the bike,” Wax explains. She also marvels at how patient the three instructors were and how they really knew how to talk to her as she learned. “It was such a safe environment, and one with people who were in the same boat as you,” she says.
Her class had ten other learners in it, mostly parents who wanted to learn to ride because their children knew how, and it was a welcoming, casual environment for all. “I was the first to start to pedal,” Wax humble brags. “Everyone else was jealous. It was a great first night.”
Wax missed the second class, but during the third, she and her classmates started bicycling around the tennis court in Matthews Park. Instructor Sheldon Mains played a huge role in her bicycling education, teaching her the tricks of starting and stopping. Already, on just her second lesson, Wax was successfully stopping, braking, and maneuvering her bike around cones. But, her favorite class was the fourth and final, because they all went out on the street for an actual bike ride.
“I was out of my comfort zone,” she says of the experience. “But it was so much fun. There was a girl riding behind me and after the first block I turned around to her and yelled ‘We did a whole block!’ All of us were super excited. We all made it, we all survived, we all came back in one piece.”
And Wax marvels at how everyone was so supportive of one another, coming together as a new community of bicyclists. “We all cheered each other on as we kept improving,” she says. “While we did our bike ride on the road, I was practicing my hand signaling and two of [my classmates] cheered for me and told me what a great job I was doing.” Everyone left that final class with a sense of pride.
With the conclusion of her Learn-to-Ride program, Wax was ready to jump right in to the world of biking. “I got a bike two weeks later and went on the Bike-a-Thon,” she says. “I did the 20 mile one out of Spokes, close to where I live, and Sheldon was like ‘You just finished class a month ago. You’re doing twenty miles?’ But, yes, I made it.” she recalls. Mains and Wax even had the opportunity to bike part of the ride together. “I was so happy to ride with Sheldon because he knew me and my abilities, and it was a lot of fun to be able to share the ride with him.”
When asked what the most important thing is she learned in the Learn-to-Ride program and how it has carried over into her life now, she laughs, recalling the mind block that told her she was going to fail and always set her back from accomplishing learning to ride. “I’m on a rampage now: what else can I tackle, what else have I been putting off in life? I don’t limit myself now. I can do what I want, push towards goals. [The class] was very empowering. It was the best confidence booster.”
Besides boosting confidence, Wax also thinks bicycling helps create community. “I [recently] went to the East Lake Street Opens Streets—not an area I would normally go to,” she says. “It was great to see the local businesses and people, proud of their neighborhood. And seeing everyone biking in the open street.” She pauses to think about the world and bicycling. “If I was running the country, I’d have everybody just get on a bike,” she says. “Stop what you are doing and ride. You will feel better.”]]>
What started out as a hobby of fixing bikes turned into a job. Eugene came to C4C and learned how to work on his bike, and after honing those skills, was offered a spot in the Youth Apprentice Program in 2011. He worked during open shops for the next two years until he graduated from high school.
“Being in the Cycles for Change environment nurtured my enthusiasm to bike,” Eugene explained. He gained confidence in his riding skills and became an avid winter cyclist, commuting from home to school to C4C and back. “Riding was a stress reliever, so I liked to ride before school,” he said. With that zeal, and with the encouragement of C4C’s youth programs coordinator, Eugene had the chance to help teach a winter cycling class at C4C. “I loved the opportunity to teach. The C4C environment made it easy,” he said.
Besides learning bike mechanics and gaining teaching experience, Eugene was also exposed to the different social issues that affect Cycles for Change’s community. “C4C shaped my beliefs and viewpoints of social issues,” he said. “The family I have, their political beliefs are a lot different than C4C’s beliefs. Spending a lot of time at C4C helped me to see things differently, for the better. C4C is all about treating people equally and believes strongly in social justice. They have a positive impact on the community.”
Eugene believes the most important cause Cycles for Change is committed to is youth leadership. “The youth apprenticeship program helps define youths as capable leaders of social issues— issues like achievement gaps and income gaps,” he said.
He is grateful he was able to be a part of a group of people who care about and fight for what is right. “When we were trying to get a bike lane on University [Avenue], people would go to the city council meetings,” he said. “I saw how my voice, through the right channels, can have an effect. The bike lane didn’t end up on University, but was still established, just one block north.”
And this sense of community was also experienced outside of Minnesota and Cycles for Change. As a youth apprentice, Eugene had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Bike!Bike! Conference in New Orleans and the 2012 Youth Venture Summit in Washington, D.C. “These conferences are where places like C4C come together to talk about what they are doing and how to make things better,” he explained. “I really saw how people had a strong sense of social justice and were certain about their views. [The youth venture conference] had youth who were creating enterprises to help change the world.”
With the knowledge he has from Cycles for Change and similar organizations across the country, Eugene feels inspired. He has transferred his love of fixing bikes to fixing aircrafts and is currently a mechanic at Delta. Though he no longer commutes by bike and is surrounded by coworkers who drive, he says he would love to associate with the bicycling commuter community again. “I believe in a car-free lifestyle,” he said. “Being someplace where everyone is biking as commuting would help me get back into biking.”
Eugene said having another experience like the experience he had at C4C might do the trick to get him biking full-time again. “If I was able to get a bike, ride it, come to C4C all over again, help people, do volunteer night, and get people to ride their bike everywhere, that would help.”]]>
The Pledge: Blue Needs You To Make Waves
Water—Swim, play, snorkel, fish, bathe, drink—the main component of all living things, from tadpoles to tigers. Clean is how we like it, and how our planet needs it. Good quality and access are basic not only to our survival but to our well-being and pleasure. Water issues take on many forms depending on locale, but no matter where we live, water matters and we need to care of it.
The BNY campaign also features Jaclyn Johnston’s 300-mile sailing/data collection adventure from Mackinac Island to Chicago, through this video produced by Ship to Shore Productions:
VIDEO: SAILING LAKE MICHIGAN WITH ASC
How can you support ASC during this campaign?
ASC is supported by 1% for the Planet business members Sunskis. To learn more about giving to ASC through 1%, visit adventurescience.org/donate. Learn more about the Microplastics Project and other ASC projects on our website, the Field Notes blog, and our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ pages.
1) hand control–through the use of some hard-working interns and temporary employees, we have pulled, cut, mowed and otherwise staunched growth through mechanical means;
2) biological control–with the purchase of some very expensive ($1 each!) insects which target specific weeds, we have made attempts to provide a sustainable, low-effort line of defense;
3) chemicals–we prefer to avoid the use of chemicals on the landscape, but weed control is a balancing act between effort, cost, and results. Turns out that chemicals take less effort than hand control; are less expensive than either hand control or biological control; and provide immediate and lasting results. Of course, we prefer to avoid them because some of the side effects are not desirable: residual chemicals in the soil persist for varying lengths of time; the long term health effects on those applying the chemicals are not entirely known, and that’s even when there are no spillage accidents or leaking backpack sprayers; and the ripple effect throughout the environment is also full of question marks–what are the impacts to aquatic invertebrates if there is overspray? what about beneficial insects? what about mega-fauna like moose and deer who browse on sprayed plants, and then eventual bio-accumulative effects if a person then harvests that animal for consumption later in the year during hunting season?
So, it is with some pleasure that we report the positive results from our efforts earlier this year at using 2) biological control. In early June, we spread 800 Canada Thistle Gall Flies, aka Urophora cardui. These insects bore into the stems of Canadian Thistle and lay eggs. The hatching larvae cause the plant to create a woody gall which inhibits flower production and reduces seed formation. We are pleased to see that some of these little bugs have, in fact, had their desired effed. See the attached photo.
We are optimistic, but not naive. We realize that 800 bugs will not solve the problem of a million thistle plants in a single season. Still, we prefer to take the long view and will continue to place more insects out as our budget allows. If you wish to support this effort, please consider directing a donation our way.
Here’s hoping for good days in your future, and less thistle in ours!
We’re proud to be one of the service providers chosen to deliver large-scale landscape restoration projects as part of the Federal Government’s 20 Million Trees Programme. Here’s where we’ll be working:
We’ll be back soon with more information about each of the projects. In the meantime you can find out more about 20 Million Trees here or on the 20 Million Trees website. And please get in touch if you have any questions.
Supported by the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees Programme (part of the National Landcare Programme) and Greening Australia.
Great colourways and simple embroidered logo compliment the great fitting, soft fabric.]]>
“Not one drop of water need be lost in restoration“
On April 21, 2015, Restore Hetch Hetchy filed a petition in the Superior Court in Tuolumne County asserting that the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park violates the water diversion mandates of the California Constitution.
Restore Hetch Hetchy has been preparing this legal challenge for some time. The occasion of John Muir’s 177th birthday and the eve of Earth Day seemed like an appropriate time to file the petition.
The petition is straightforward. We intend to show that the value of restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley is greater than the cost of making the water system improvements that would be necessary to move the point of diversion for Tuolumne River flows downstream of Yosemite National Park. As a result, continued operation of the reservoir is a violation of the prohibition against unreasonable methods of diversion in Article X, section 2 of the California Constitution.
As passionate as we are about restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley and Yosemite National Park, we are equally committed to ensuring a reliable water supply for San Francisco and other Bay Area communities. Therefore, our petition allows time for San Francisco to develop and implement a plan to assure that not one drop of water is lost and all hydropower is replaced with renewable sources.
While we anticipate opposition, we believe we have a strong case on the merits. We look forward to the opportunity to present our case in the courts.
We have posted both the petition and our press release on our website. Stay tuned – there will be much more to come over the next many months.
A century ago, San Francisco made history by becoming the only city ever to destroy a significant portion of one of our national parks. We intend to reverse that unfortunate chapter of American history and return Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite National Park and all people.
With continued support from all who love Yosemite and America’s national parks, we can make restoration a reality. It is time to return Hetch Hetchy to all people.