People just don't get nature trail


To the editor:

(re: “Parks officials poised to pave Putnam Trail,” Nov. 22)

There is no joy on Van Cortlandt Park’s Putnam Trail — now called a “green way,” which is park-speak for a soon-to-be-paved nature trail.

Unlike Robert Moses’ failed promise of an improved corridor, the future trail comes with a promise of maintenance, despite the reason for its never being maintained is lack of funds.

No use bellyaching. The parks department went through the hoops and crossed their T’s. Parks said that stakeholders were their first concern. But what they didn’t do was actually go to the trail and speak to those stakeholders who best know the trail, and who use it on a frequent basis.

Then again, parks says that the community board is the “established venue for engagement.” Many of us were at the meetings. We had our say. Cross another T.

But unlike projects which engage a neighborhood cluster, the Putnam Trail is not across from real estate, and wildlife dwellers were not at the meetings. Nor did meetings provide transportation or English translation, or babysitters.

Real estate prices are not affected. One’s access to nature is. In fact, as close as it is to public access, the Putnam Trail is the gateway away from asphalt. It speaks to woods, wetland, lake and wildlife, and all things natural — including its surface, which is a boon to all who traverse it, and which could include wheelchair users wanting to pause, observe and absorb nature. It provides immigrants with their “nature fix.”

But maybe the reason for parkland is to provide athletic activity, and the idea that parks should bring people to nature is old hat. Sad, that. And maybe organized groups get attention, and the non-savvy get shrugged shoulders. Sad, that, too.

Two young brothers were examining trail insects. They overheard me talking to their grandmother about the possibility of paving the trail. They screamed, “Miss, don’t let them do that! That would ruin everything.”

When told they could still come to the trail, they said, “Lady, you just don’t get it.”

I “get it.” I see the experience of being on the Putnam in every grateful face I pass. Sad that so many vote to pave.

Maybe they don’t get it. Sadder, those who get it but choose to rubber stamp for pavement anyway.

No, there is no joy on the Putnam Trail. But then, those who know it most and matter most and need it most struck out.

Catherine O’Brien