Our Goals

Welcome to The Putnam Trail!
BCEQ resolution regarding the Putnam Trail:  here
Community leaders’s suggested trail fixes:  here
Sen. Klein and Assemblyman Dinowitz’s letter:  here
SPT position paper on the trail:  here
Sierra Club NYC blogpost:  here.
SPT position paper on VCP Masterplan:  here
Manual on how to make Vanny a herbicide-free park:  here
Save the Putnam Trail’s Facebook page:  here

The Putnam Trail runs through state-protected wetlands and city-designated Forever Wild preserves. Van Cortlandt Park’s wetlands are YO-1 classed wetlands — the highest classification.  “This wetland has a diversity of wetland communities seldom equaled in Bronx County and contains habitat types found nowhere else in the Bronx,” said DEC in 1987.  The wetlands are protected by DEC and include Tibbetts Brook, the marshes, the lake and pond. At one time there were 224,000 acres of freshwater wetlands in the city.  Now there are 2,000 acres. The area meets New York State’s definition of environmentally-sensitive areas.  It offers aquifer recharge, open space, unique character, wetlands and wildlife habitat. (NYS Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1986)

In one study, asphalt next to wetlands caused a 19% decline in reptile and amphibian species and a 14% decline in bird species richness.  (Findlay & Houlahan, Conservation Biology, 1996)   NYSDEC in 2003 said that half of the endangered and threatened plant species are in wetland areas of the state.

When it comes to birds in the park, breeding birds will be most harmed. Longtime birder John Young compared Central Park and Van Cortlandt Park:  “Although the diversity of birds in both parks is similar during migration, the similarity ends with breeding season. The Van Cortlandt marsh alone holds more breeding species than all of Central Park.”

Despite this fact, the Parks Department continues to ignore how their proposed changes would impact this area, a stance that is against city policy and state and federal law. In a 2010 memo to DEC, they complained that unless the entire trail were paved, a north/south bike trail would be “completely compromised.”  Nature was not foremost on their minds.

In 2009, Mayor De Blasio, and members of the city council, signed Local Law 31. “NYC has lost the majority of its wetlands to development over time… The Council finds that to the maximum extent possible in consideration of competing land uses, preserving the remaining wetlands, creating new wetlands and undertaking actions designed to improve the functions of wetlands to the maximum extent possible is in the best interests of the city, and offers a way to respond to the challenges that will be presented by climate change and rising sea levels.”

In the chart below, a local engineer analyzes alternatives. The Best Practice would be to work with the existing trail.  It doesn’t have to be widened as much, and plants and trees can be removed slowly over time to avoid stressing wildlife and the surrounding wetlands. Boardwalks can be placed over bog areas because those are areas where Tibbetts Brook reasserts itself from under the Trail, pushing upward to the surface. Bioremediation uses plants to clean up soil.

Once these places are gone, they are gone forever.

SPT supported alternatives chart

A map of the YO-1-classed wetlands next to Putnam Trail (1966). The trail is called Conrail below:


Photos taken by participants in a Shorewalker Walk along Putnam Trail, Oct. 2013.

Photos show how the trail is shared today

If paved, experience has been cyclists will dominate and change the trail’s fundamental character. Currently it is shared by all users, equally and harmoniously.

Sarah Baglio on “BronxTalk with Gary Axelbank”

Educator Sarah Baglio makes the community case for keeping the trail as natural as possible. Click here to watch online.



          And VIP supporters  …

“The Putnam Trail is one of the open space glories of the New York Metropolitan region. We have spent many wonderful hours walking it in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Westchester. To deface and desecrate it with concrete would be an environmental disaster. The more natural a trail the better.”

Cy A. Adler, President, Shorewalkers Inc., www.shorewalkers.org

“I have been to Van Cortlandt Park as a runner and spectator over many years and feel strongly that the Putnam Trail should not be paved over. It will not benefit the users of the Park and this money can be used in countless meaningful ways.”

George Hirsch, Chairman of the Board, New York Road Runners, www.nyrr.org

 “The Putnam Trail is a jewel. It’s a mindless, destructive and wasteful act to pave the Putnam Trail. To spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to pave over this treasured parkland seems to be the antithesis of what a Parks Dept. should be doing.”

Eric Seiff, Chairman of the Board, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, www.vancortlandt.org

 “As a cyclist, I originally thought it would be a good idea to pave the trail and have gravel on the sides of the pavement for the runners, so all could have an equal share; however, with the understanding that trees would be cut down [widening of the trail], that goes against my values as an environmentalist and a former teacher of environmental science. I am all for in favor for leaving it is as it is now in the wild. I don’t want to cut down any trees at all if it’s avoidable.”

Denis Burns, Secretary of the USI Cycling Club; Past President and current Board member of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park

“Paving the trail greatly increases injuries–runners, walkers, and even dogs all thrive when they exercise on natural dirt surfaces. In any case, we desperately need to preserve our natural surroundings in an over-populated world.”

Kathrine Switzer, notable author, television commentator, marathon runner; first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a number, leading to women being able to run in officially-sanctioned marathons across the world

“The race walkers of the Greater New York strongly oppose any paving of the Putnam Trail and would like to see funds go towards more free programs in the park, therefore helping to improve the quality of life in the Bronx.”

Lon Wilson, President, New York Walkers Club/ Parks Greeter, www.nywalkersclub.org

“Having run for over 55 years and run around the world I realized that only those communities that set aside trail space will have a lasting legacy for future generations. A community with trails is a richer community in health, fitness, beauty of nature and direct connection to our ancient roots.”

Jeff Galloway, U.S. Olympian, www.RunInjuryFree.com


Putnam Trail looking south

(Photo: M. Turov)

NYCParks says seven mature trees will be removed. This photo facing south in April 2013 shows many trees will have to be removed. The trail is 6 ft-wide here. DPR wants to more than double width to 15 feet. By saying they’re planting 400 trees, they’re admitting they are removing more than five to seven trees. Local laws require a wood for wood formula (trees removed must be replaced, wood for wood). Also countless smaller plants will be removed which serve as vital wildlife habitat and which soak up excess storm water that causes erosion.


       The purpose of this campaign …

The purpose of this campaign is to preserve the Putnam Trail and surrounding environment. The park is known as “the lungs of NYC” for its ability to filter air and water pollution. The current plan does not use Best Practices. It removes the equivalent of 400 trees, countless understory and vegetation, and harms the quality of the wetlands/lake, and city biodiversity.

NYC Parks Department plans to double and triple the current width to 15ft.  The average lane of an interstate highway is 12ft.

Our proposals are here:  SPT Position Paper, v3.

We ask you to support the Save the Putnam Trail campaign.  If we stay silent on this issue one of the jewels of the Bronx and NYC will be lost forever.

Please don’t let the Putnam Trail become “Putnam Boulevard”!


1. saves taxpayers money

2. preserves, even improves, the environment

3. still serves ALL users well