Work to Close Harriman- Bear Mountain Park Trails

Work to replace a water line that runs through the Popolopen Gorge will close the Popolopen Gorge Trail and portions of the 1779, 1777W and Timp Torne Trails beginning at about the end of September. The closure will affect trails for a distance of 2.2 miles through the Gorge.

The Queensboro Water Transmission Main Replacement work will involve directional drilling and trenching, likely including some blasting, to replace the old aqueduct that provides water to Bear Mountain facilities. Duration of the project is expected to be six months, possibly extending into late spring of 2012. The work will destroy the trail surface- reconditioning of the surface is included in the work plan.

The map above indicates (yellow outline) the area of the trails to be closed. To aid in understanding the full situation of limited access to trails in the area, also indicated is the former location of the Popolopen Creek bridge that was washed aside by Hurricane Irene. Replacement of this long fiberglass bridge will be an extended process, requiring determination of the repair procedure, consideration of raising the height of the bridge, acquiring funding, accomplishing the repair, and moving and reinstalling the bridge into place. For more information, call (845) 786-2701.

Palisades Parks Affected by Tropical Storm Irene

Many state parks and historic sites in the Palisades Region are inaccessible due to damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Parks will reopen as power is restored, debris is removed, floodwaters recede, and public safety can be assured. The list of closings will be updated as conditions changes. Before visiting, visitors should contact the respective park offices for the most up-to-date information on availability of facilities and hours of operation.

* Bear Mountain State Park services are limited due to disruption of water service and the pool will remain closed for the season. The zoo is currently closed.

* Camping at Sebago Cabins, Beaver Pond and group camps at Harriman State Park is unavailable until further notice.

* Sebago Beach at Harriman is closed for the season.

* Lake Welch and Tiorati areas of Harriman are without power and water.

* High Tor State Park is without power.

* Minnewaska State Park Preserve will be open on a limited basis until further notice effective Saturday, September 3, 2011. The Preserve will only be open for hiking, picnicking, and swimming at Lake Minnewaska and climbing at the Peter’s Kill area. Biking and equestrian use will not be permitted. Access is only available for hikers and climbers. All hikers must park in the Awosting Parking Lot and all climbers must park in the Peter’s Kill parking lot. Please adhere to all posted trail closings.

Photo: Storm Damage on Palisades Park Road (Photo by Sean Rose).

Rockland County: St. Johns in the Wilderness

In a quiet corner of Rockland County, just a few miles from downtown Haverstraw, NY, stands St. Johns in the Wilderness Episcopal Church. Today it is a reminder that there was once a small but thriving community there, long since grown over.

Located near present day Lake Welch in Harriman State Park, St. John’s was constructed in 1880 through the patronage of Mrs. Margaret Zimmerman, a wealthy New Yorker, as a memorial to her husband John who had died suddenly while they were honeymooning in Palestine. Mrs. Zimmerman (who never remarried) had a retreat estate in Tuxedo Park and enjoyed hiking throughout the area, ultimately buying the land where St. John’s now stands.

In June of 1880, the cornerstone was laid and named for St. John the Evangelist and on November 23rd of the same year, the church was dedicated and officially opened for services. Three years later, Mrs. Zimmerman and Mrs. Carey, director of this church, founded a parish school for orphaned boys from New York City.

That Much Good Might Be Done: St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness, the Legacy of Ada Bessie Carey and Margaret Furniss Zimmerman, is a historical biography of these two 19th century women who devoted much of their lives operating the school and the chapel for the poor families of the Ramapo Mountains. The book details both their efforts and the history of the church.

The author, Odessa Southern Elliott, was caretaker at St. John’s for 30 years. She collected data locally and from around the world. She obtained the memoirs of Dora Ruth West, Mrs. Carey’s adopted daughter- and Sean Furniss, the great-great-great nephew of Mrs. Zimmerman shared his family research with her.

Copies of the book are available at the Harriman Park Visitor’s Center located between exits 16 and 17 on the Palisades Parkway for $15. For more information, call: 845-786-5003.

100th Anniversary of the Harriman Gift

On October 29, 1910, 18-year-old Averell Harriman, the future governor of the State of New York, represented the Harriman family in donating 10,000 acres of land in the Lower Hudson Valley and $1 million dollars to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC). The young Averell stated &#8220it is the hope that through all the years to come the health and happiness of future generations will be advanced by these gifts.&#8221 The family’s gift created Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks, which now encompass more than 50,000 acres, more than three times the size of Manhattan.

In recognition of this year’s historic anniversary, PIPC has initiated a fundraising effort to rebuild, repair, and restore the Harriman Group Camps, with a goal of $2 million. The effort hopes to build a new generation of philanthropy for the Harriman Group Camps so generations of children can share in the wilderness experience. Donations for the Harriman Group Camps can be made to the Palisades Parks Conservancy Group Camp Fund.

Photo: Women enjoying the serenity of Bear Mountain c. 1914. Photo Courtesy of PIPC Archives.