To the editor:
Like lemmings heading over the cliff, in near unanimity, the board of director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park has elected to terminate the participation of 13 of its active directors in the hope that this deed will somehow bring to fruition the repeatedly delayed merger with the park’s conservancy.
A skeletal remainder of five Friends directors are expected to soldier on while the creation of a new alliance remains unfulfilled. If that repeatedly extended event does not occur in a timely fashion, years — indeed, decades — of commitment, talent, enthusiasm and resources will surely be lost. Generous donors will understandably re-examine their support, while the hoped-for alliance first underrates its search for a permanent chief executive and chairperson, and some proof on its ability to deliver.
For more than a quarter century, the Friends have been the significant independent group committed to bringing park benefits to our community. Among its successes have been the multi-million dollar cleansing of the pond, creating and maintaining paths through much of its spectacular urban forest, resuscitating its famed cross-country trail, and introducing its natural wonders through educational programs, reaching over the years thousands of youngsters.
Its failures include its inability to prevent the incipient multi-million-dollar spread of thousands of pounds of asphalt on the glorious Putnam Trail, and the mindless impeding of an important portion of that same cross-country venue, leading to the departure of numerous college and university varsities across the nation, and the disappearance of national competitions that so enhanced its stature.
But most significantly, what the current board has surrendered is its historic independence, an independence long resisted by the parks department, with no equivalent substitute in the offing.
The author served for decades (and later chairman) of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.