Engineer’s Report

Using the message of Save the Putnam Trail as an inspiration and consulting with trail building firms, a local engineer conducted cost and environmental impact analyses for two natural surfacing trail designs – including a stone dust design. The result? Both of the natural surfacing design plans would cost a fraction of the pavement budget to construct and maintain in the long term. In addition, the analysis highlights the environmental and health benefits of natural trail surfacing. It seems that natural trails are a win-win!

Summary of Cost Analysis:

Trail Surface Construction Cost Maintenance Costs
Pavement $1,292, 588.78 for the major clearing and paving, $1,937,063.78 in total Unpredictable maintenance and expenses due to known environmental hazards
Soil $569,622.78 Under $10,000/year average
Crushed Limestone $619,622.78 Under $5,000/year average


Visit the website at: for the full cost and environmental impact analysis

Here are the analysis components which are available at this url:

  1. General background on the environmental factors that prompted this analysis: Background
  2. View and download a copy of the public design document for the pavement construction plan: Current Design Plan
  3. Alternative design 1- compacted soil trail: Alternative 1- Soil
  4. Alternative design 2 – stone dust trail: Alternative 2- Stone
  5. A discussion of the level of comfort and accessibility that each kind of trail design offers: Accessibility
  6. Cost analysis for a compacted soil trail: Alt 1 – Cost
  7. Environmental analysis for a compacted soil trail: Alt 1 – Environment
  8. Discussion of health impacts of a compacted soil trail: Alt 1 – Health
  9. Cost analysis for a stone dust trail: Alt 2 – Cost
  10. Environmental analysis for a stone dust trail: Alt 2- Environment
  11. Discussion of health impacts of a stone dust trail: Alt 2- Health
  12. Cost analysis for a paved trail: Pavement- Cost
  13. Environmental analysis for a paved trail: Pavement- Environment
  14. Discussion of health impacts of a paved trail: Pavement- Health
  15. Discussion of the wetlands surrounding the Putnam Trail and why introducing another major construction project into the vicinity of this environmentally sensitive area is risky for the flora and fauna: Wetlands Protection
  16. Discussion of other environmental issues in Van Cortlandt Park which need to be addressed urgently: What else can we spend this money on?
  17. How you can help to spread the word about the benefits of keeping the Putnam Trail natural and unpaved: Your voice

Introduction letter from the engineer:


This site is dedicated to raising awareness about an environmentally destructive construction project in NYC which is set to start in 2013. The goal of this site is to propose two alternative, environmentally sustainable design plans with cost estimates which are lower than the funding proposed for the existing plan. My qualifications are as follows: I am an engineer and have two years of experience in doing budget analysis for a federal research program. Here is a brief introduction to the project:

There is a plan to re-design the Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The trail is located on the old abandoned Putnam Railroad ballast which runs north to south through the park. The northern half of the trail runs through the narrow space between the Van Cortlandt Lake and Tibbett’s Brook with its adjacent marshy areas (collectively these bodies of water constitute the Van Cortlandt wetlands). Van Cortlandt Park is the site of the Forever Wild Nature Preserve and serves as a home and migration stop for different species of birds, aquatic life, reptiles and mammals. The wetland areas of the preserve have been damaged in the last several years by major construction projects in nearby areas of the park and are currently in a fragile state.

The current Putnam Rail Trail Construction plan involves clearing areas around the current trail, creating a 10-foot wide paved path with an adjacent jogging path and other restoration side-projects which will urbanize the Putnam area of the park.  The main goal of the construction plan is to make the trail more accessible to a variety of users and to connect it smoothly to an existing paved path in Yonkers. I believe that a paved design is not suitable for the Putnam Trail due to its proximity to an environmentally-sensitive, protected wetland area. The park is bordered by highways and pavement on all sides and has been the site of major, ecologically damaging construction projects for a number of years. Laying down 1.8 acres of paved surface through the backbone of the wetland area would introduce groundwater contaminants, disrupt natural cycles of water absorption, and cause further deterioration of the preserve. Wildlife nesting patterns would also be disturbed, potentially affecting populations of some species in the long term.

On April 9, 2013 I attended a community board meeting devoted to the Putnam Trail project and learned that the pavement design plan is adopted largely because of cost considerations. Even though the NYC Department of Parks and the community board are aware of the fact that a significant number of community members are opposed to the pavement plan and are sympathetic to their environmental concerns, it seems that the project must go on as planned simply because a paved surface is estimated to be the most economical in the long run. To the best of my knowledge, an Environmental Impact Statement was not issued for this design plan at any point and cost estimates for alternative, environmentally sustainable designs were never made public.

I propose two alternative design plans: a natural soil-and-mulch design, and a crushed limestone design. The cost comparison is as follows:

Pavement: Construction- $1,292, 588.78 for the major clearing and paving, $1,937,063.78 in total

                        Maintenance- unpredictable maintenance and expenses due to known environmental hazards

 Soil:             Construction- estimated $569,622.78

                       Maintenance- estimated under $10,000/year average

Stone:         Construction- estimated $619,622.78

                       Maintenance- estimated under $5,000/year average

The Department of Parks and Recreation is not soliciting alternative design ideas- as of May 2013, the paved design plan has been adopted and approved by all but a few government entities whose final seal of approval is required by law. My design plan is not meant as an official proposal to the Department of Parks or any other government agency. My aim is to share my ideas and relevant supporting research results with people who wish to learn more about the project and its impact on the surrounding wooded and wetland areas. I want people to be aware that not only is an alternative design plan possible, it would also be more economical and much more environmentally sustainable. I hope the information presented here will inform and inspire people to learn more about this significant construction project.

-Margarita Eremeyev

May 16, 2013