MOUNT KISCO, N.Y., July 20 // -- America's oldest parkway has a fascinating history, and now thanks to the Friends of Westchester County Parks, Inc., learning the history of the Bronx River Parkway just got a lot easier.
Beginning July 22, hikers and cyclists along the 9.6 mile Bronx River Walk will have the opportunity to hear the rich history of this area through a free interactive 26-stop audio tour, narrated by none-other than former CBS News anchor and award-winning journalist, Dan Rather. Using their cell phones, walkers can get information about any one of the 26 points of interest by calling (914) 517-5575. Visitors will also be able plan their walk in advance by logging on to www.friendsofwestchesterparks.com and downloading the information and a map to their iPods or MP3 players.
The Bronx River Walk runs through the heart of the 13.2-mile Bronx River Parkway Reservation, which stretches from the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla to the New York City line. The park dates back to 1906, when local officials formed a commission with the goal of cleaning up what was then a wasteland along the Bronx River. Creating a reservation of land alongside the river was designed to provide a scenic country drive for New York City residents. Almost 10 years later, in November of 1925, dignitaries gathered on the Valhalla Bridge to officially dedicate the Bronx River Parkway.
Today, more than 100 years later, the Bronx River Walk provides a wonderful world of sights, sounds, wildlife, history, architecture and more in pristine natural surroundings. It is part of one of the finest park systems in the nation.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer this free service to the public so that they can continue to enjoy this beautifully scenic parkway and all of its amenities," said Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, Chairwoman of the Friends of Westchester County Parks. "This is the first of what we hope will be many similar projects for other parks and walkways throughout Westchester County."
"The Bronx River Pathway has been one of my favorite county parks since I was a youngster," Westchester County Executive Andy Spano said. "And, anyone like me who loves exploring local history will join me in thanking the Friends of Parks for putting together this excellent tour. They've done the research so the rest of us can listen and enjoy as we stroll and learn the storied background of this wonderful and unique park."
The northern section of the Bronx River Walk, running from the Kensico Dam in Valhalla to Green Acres Avenue in Scarsdale, is a five-mile walk. The southern section, from the Scarsdale train station to Palmer Road in Bronxville, is 4.6 miles. The pedestrian-friendly walkways offer a glimpse of Westchester's natural surroundings including woods, ponds, waterfalls, open spaces, trees, a variety of birds, and other woodland creatures.
Some of the highlights of the audio tour include:
- Kensico Dam Plaza. The massive granite structure holds back a reservoir of more than 30 billion gallons of water at full capacity, covering 13 square miles.
- 9/11 Memorial, "The Rising." The majestic memorial honors Westchester residents killed in the September 11(th) terrorist attacks.
- Valhalla Bridge. The Valhalla Bridge is the site of the Grand Opening Ceremony of the Parkway Drive in 1925.
- Westchester County Center. The Art Deco style building dates back to 1930 and underwent a major renovation in 1988. The 5,000-seat center offers everything from concerts to conventions.
- Battle Hill Monument. The monument commemorates the Battle of White Plains, and features a British field gun used by the American forces during the Revolutionary War.
- Millstream Diversion. This is the site of various mills that stood along the river -- grist mills for grain, saw mills for lumber and a stone mill.
- Scarsdale Falls, Tooley Bridge. Just steps from downtown Scarsdale, you'll find a peaceful waterfall and Tooley Bridge, named for Lowell Tooley, the first president of the Bronx River Parkway Preservation Conservancy.
- Garth Woods. Named for Scarsdale resident David Garth, Garth Woods is a beautifully forested area with three new footbridges.
- Westchester County Tourism Information Center. The center was once one of two gas stations built in 1935. It's open seasonally from June 27 to August 31 on Fridays from 11 am to 6 pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
- Crestwood Lake and Bronxville Lake. The 10-acre Crestwood Lake area is noted as one of the best places for bird-watching along the Bronx River Walk. Bronxville Lake is also a great spot for wildlife watching. In 2001, the Parks Department undertook a major restoration project at Bronxville Lake, planting native grasses and wildflowers to control erosion and improve water quality.
For more information, please check the Website at www.friendsofwestchesterparks.com.