Explore the Putnam Trail

Far from being “abandoned,” the Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park is walked, cycled, jogged, birded.  Families, school classes, senior citizens, fishermen, and cyclists use it. The 1.5 mile Trail is a narrow corridor surrounded by trees, flowers, and birds, and is a rural utopia in the heart of the city. These special areas have laws and regulations protecting them for a reason, and they are still dwindling. The trail runs through one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the city (56-plus acres) and Forever Wild Preserves. Using bioremediation, and other natural processes appropriate for a natural area, the Trail could be a model for best practices. The city is 72% hardscape.

The portion of the Putnam Trail in VCP that’s going to be “improved” starts at the golf house and extends to the Yonkers border. The rail line north of the park is paved for 40-50 miles, and beyond.  Pavers say they need more asphalt and there’s not enough asphalt in VCP. But the park is fragmented by 3-4 parkways, some 6 to 12 lanes wide, paved golf paths, paved greenways, and paved paths.  In fact, more asphalt in the park would be a “net add” to the city’s supply upping heat-dome effect – another environmental no-no.

An unmarked paved bike route next to the Deegan.


Below, asphalt paths and highways highlighted in the park. From its historical roots, the park was to favor nature. Right now, there is a balance between paved, non-asphalt, and stone-dust trails. Missing from the map below are most asphalt paths in golf courses. What causes the sediment in the lake and wetlands and CSO’s downstream are these asphalt highways and paths. Chemicals used on the golf courses also affect lake water quality. A scientist at the PDC hearing (April 2016) noted that paving would add 41,000 gallons of water for every inch of rain to the park.

Asphalt paths, highways in VCP-b

The city says that there are 14 miles of paved, 18 miles natural, and 3.7 miles stone-dust trails in the park.  However, a number of natural trails are “social” trails, and getting reduced to improve the health of natural areas.