Fishkill Ridge
Community Heritage

Palisades Needs Protection


Piliated WoodpeckerThe great Palisades Interstate Park system is also a Rockland asset that protects a large amount of open space here, but it now needs its own protection.

The Park Commission was founded in 1900 by Gov. Teddy Roosevelt of New York and New Jersey Gov. Foster Voorhees to save the Palisades cliffs from further blasting as stone was sought for New York City construction.

This bi-state partnership eventually resulted in 100,000 acres of forest, wildlife habitats and cultural resources, from just below the George Washington Bridge in Jersey and extending north for 150 miles to Saugerties, N.Y.

The park system reports nine million visitors each year, with the famous 5,056 acre Bear Mountain State Park the flagship. In total, there are 24 public parks in both states, offering recreation, camping, hiking and solitude, as well as rescuing land from relentless development.

The vast system is a jewel for New York and New Jersey, but it has been woefully neglected by both Albany and Trenton. This Traveling Editorial Page has commented numerous times on our visits to various facilities, where we have seen deteriorated buildings and pavement, as well as overtaxed facilities run by hardworking but inadequate staffing.

The Palisades Interstate Parkway, the Robert Moses-inspired route to the parks for New York City visitors, is largely in poor shape as well.

Back in the 1970s, Albany, in a budget move designed to help New York City's fiscal woes, took the New York section of the parkway from the PIPC and gave it to the state Department of Transportation without sufficient funding. That and a state bond failure have left the parkway section north of New City with its original 1950s pavement and poor drainage. No renovation is in sight.

Millions of dollars are required to rebuild the Bear Mountain Inn and other facilities in the parks, and the PIPC is in part relying on the Friends of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to help.

In the donating spirit of the Averill Harriman family, George Perkins and the Rockefellers, the Friends group hopes to protect what Perkins called "A world of almost virgin nature which has been rescued for the people," and which Laurance and David Rockefeller termed "A grand story of a work in progress."

While we hope the Friends of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission raise millions beyond what has already been secured for the inn, etc., we again implore Albany and Trenton to:

• Improve the budget for the PIPC.

• Establish adequate maintenance spending.

• Secure federal assistance.

• Get New York City involved since so many visitors to the park system come from Gotham. The city should be included in funding and fund-raising.

• Establish a PIP road rehabilitation program that will restore the highway to its original condition while guarding against any widening as an interstate. It must remain a parkway set partially in a relatively tranquil setting, as designed.

Unless major reinvestment is made in the holdings of the PIPC, the great visions of the Roosevelts, Rockefellers and Perkins to provide a vast "Central Park" for the masses will be clouded history.

Hudson RiverWhat can you do?
Contact the Friends of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission
Administration Building, Bear Mountain, NY 10911- 0427

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