Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roberto Clemente State Park highlighted in national initiative

Here's a story from this week's Bronx Press. The full lineup of stories is coming later today.

Ken Salazar (center) toured Roberto Clemente State Park
with U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, state Sen. Jose Serrano
and others last week.
By Brendan McHugh

It’s not often a member President Obama’s team visits the Bronx, but they did last Friday to launch a new job creating initiative.

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Obama’s nature czar, came to Roberto Clemente State Park in Morris Heights to launch the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. 

Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining ways to reconnect Americans to the outdoors, Salazar joined U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano and local environmental activists in highlighting Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors. 

“For so many decades, people turned their backs on America,” Salazar said. “It’s been only in the last 30 years there’s been a rediscovery of the greatness of the rivers of America.” 

Jump below for the full story.

Serrano, who has allocated over $30 million to the park in the last two decades, took Salazar on a tour of the park, where he highlighted a lack of access to the waterway along most of the river. 

“The setting for this announcement at Roberto Clemente State Park is fitting because there is such a need for increased access to the Harlem River here. It is illustrative of the efforts we have been making for years to connect communities to restored natural resources in their own neighborhoods,” Serrano said. 

Earlier this year, the two men participated in a local launch of the Bronx and Harlem River Watersheds as one of seven pilot projects of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership—an effort by 11 federal agencies to stimulate regional and local economies, create local jobs, improve quality of life, and protect Americans’ health by revitalizing urban waterways in under-served communities across the country. First announced in June, the new partnership brings together the state, city and federal efforts to improve access to the river and enhance recreational facilities.

Currently, there is only one public access point on the Harlem River located, and it is on the Manhattan side of the river. Interior’s National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working closely with New York City and community groups to create a new waterfront greenway along the Bronx side connecting the river to neighborhoods. 

The lack of access was conveniently highlighted when a group of young boaters rowing down the river passed by. Had they wanted to stop at the park, they wouldn’t have been able to. 

Chauncy Young, coordinator of the Harlem River Working Group, cited the need to not only expand access, but also make it easier to get permits to get on the water and increase the bike paths along the water. The city’s parks department has been working to expand the Putnam Trail past Van Cortlandt Park in hopes of connecting it to the Harlem River, all the way to Brooklyn. 

“This park is poised for a restoration that will make it a hub connecting neighborhoods and landscapes with the river,” Salazar said. 

Many of the park’s facilities—fields, docks, boat launches, and trails—need significant upgrades. Specific capital needs at the park include acquiring access to the riverfront, developing and improving park facilities, and building trail connections to the New York City greenway system, which includes the Putnam Trail.

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