Hitting the Trails, Thanks to the Vision of a Special Few
By Jana Seitz
<“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead
Walk with me if you will in an “It’s a Wonderful Life” way to what Upper Westchester County could have been if some of our George Baileys had never lived. New York is a British colony. The Jersey Palisades and Hudson Highlands have been removed by quarry companies. A maximum-security prison is at Bear Mountain. There is no inn, no park, no bridge, no nothing.
Now, let’s insert the heroes who circumvented these near disasters, changing the direction of history. Firstly and most obviously, General George Washington under whose command two forts were built on the west side of the Hudson at the base of Bear Mountain to protect an upward surge by river of the British forces during the Revolution. Forts Clinton and Montgomery were connected by footbridge across a small tributary creek, and can still be walked through today. Washington’s action saved our young country on October 6, 1777, when the British got tricky and came by land rather than by ship in a “divide and conquer” tactic, rendering our chain across the river useless. The 700 American troops lost, but the battle detained the British troops just long enough for them to miss (and lose) the battle at Saratoga, a major turning point for us.
Secondly and least conspicuously, The Englewood Women’s Club of New Jersey, a small group of civic-minded, environmentally-concerned, tenacious ladies (like the Rye Garden Club) which began a movement to save the Palisades from being blasted to Kingdom Come. Their action led to the creation of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) with a mission “to preserve land and to provide opportunities for outdoor recreation accessible to all.” The year was 1896.