Our Goals

Welcome to The Putnam Trail!

What we “share” is biodiversity: bird life, shy woodland creatures, one of the last remaining wetlands in the Bronx and New York City. It’s not just green space but green habitat with a viable ecosystem. We share clean water and air, and the irreplaceable experience of quiet that only nature can provide. We share rabbits, frogs, turtles, chipmunks, muskrat, and nesting birds to young and old, and future generations. We share what is not compatible with a widened, asphalt-paved “greenway.” Van Cortlandt Park is not Riverside Park or Central Park. It possesses the wide array of recreational amenities, but also ecosystems that are available to all. Good stewardship supports non-fragmentation and non-erosion, context-sensitivity and good health.

new Bioblitz 2015!  Spreadsheet data on biodiversity around Putnam Trail  click here

new Open Letter signed by 8 organizations against the current design  click here

SPT’s written testimony – April PDC public hearing  click here

Do natural trails “wash away?”  click here

An example of a successful natural trail:  click here

Sustainable Green Infrastructure Comparisons:  click here

Making the current trail ADA-compliant as one alternative:  click here

BCEQ resolution regarding the Putnam Trail:  click here

Community leaders suggest trail fixes:  click here

Sen. Klein and Assemblyman Dinowitz’s letter:  click here

SPT position paper on the trail:  click here

Sierra Club NYC blogpost:  click here

SPT position paper on VCP Masterplan:  click here

Manual on how to make Vanny a herbicide-free park:  click here

Save the Putnam Trail’s Facebook page:  click 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. NYSDEC described this area in 1987 this way:  “This wetland has a diversity of wetland communities seldom equaled in Bronx County and contains habitat types found nowhere else in the Bronx.” The wetlands are protected by the state and federal government. At one time there were 224,000 acres of freshwater wetlands in the city which is down to 2,000 acres today. The area meets New York State’s definition of environmentally-sensitive area by offering aquifer recharge, open space, unique character, wetlands and wildlife habitat. (NYS Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1986)

In 2009, Bill De Blasio then public advocate joined with the City Council to sign Local Law 31, which states, “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.”

The Audubon Society has designated the park an IBA (Important Bird Area). Longtime birder John Young compared Central Park and Van Cortlandt Park this way: “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.”

How the trail is restored presents an extraordinary opportunity to improve the health of wetlands, lake, and rivers, and ultimately the health of every New Yorker.

A local engineer analyzes options:page0001

A map of the YO-1-classed wetlands next to Putnam Trail (1986). 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, a rare space where people can enjoy nature slowly. Currently it is shared by all users, equally and harmoniously.

The Trail on “BronxTalk with Gary Axelbank”

Click photo or 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: Matt Turov)

NYCParks says seven mature trees will be removed. This photo facing south in April 2013 shows that many trees and plants will have to be removed. Parks revealed at a DEC hearing in 2013, as many as 300 smaller trees, and 30 or so larger trees. The trail is 6 ft-wide in this photo. DPR wants to more than double the width to 15 feet and those that know the area, know this really removes the trail as a nature area.


       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 taxpayer money

2. preserves and renews the environment and good health of residents

3. still serves ALL users well