Story and drawings by Dylan O’Keefe
Spring is upon us, and what better way to embrace the changing of the seasons than to get out and explore the splendor of the natural world around you. As residents of Westchester County, we are lucky to have so many beautiful public parks to hike, fish, picnic, etc. Whether you are looking for a challenging hike on dynamic terrain, or an easy scenic area to relax and socialize with friends and family, Westchester Parks have something to offer everyone; young and old alike.
As a long time resident of Chappaqua, I have been able to visit many of the parks our county has to offer. Here are ten of my favorites:
1. Manor Park, Larchmont:
After entering the park on its smooth tarmac pathway you will be struck by its extraordinary view of the Long Island Sound, its quaint gazebos, and the glacially striated rocks spanning the 5000 ft. shoreline. Historically the land has passed in ownership from the Siwanoy, to the Dutch, to the nephew of John Jay.
2. Whippoorwill Park, Chappaqua:
I found this park’s hilly and dense terrain the best for long hikes in solitude. A wandering body in nature leads to a more fluid and creative wondering mind. The area also allows tent camping with permission from the town.
3. Rockefeller Preserve, Sleepy Hollow:
Donated by the Rockefeller family in 1983, this 1,233-acre park features dirt, tarmac and gravel trails, great for running, jogging or walking through dense tree lines. The park even allows for horse riding. The area looks out onto the Hudson with picturesque views of the Tappan Zee Bridge, a sight that is far more attractive when seen from a distance of three miles.
4. Gedney Park, Chappaqua:
A New Castle favorite, this family friendly 126-acre park features playgrounds, picnic areas, sporting fields and hiking trails.
5. Kensico Resevoir, Mount Pleasant:
Technically not a park, but contiguous to both Cranberry Lake Preserve and Kensico Plaza Dam Park, the reservoir offers fishing and boating to permit holders. Cranberry Lake has elementary trails with swamps, cliffs, and woodland scenery.
6. Teatown Lake Preservation, Yorktown-Cortlandt-New Castle:
This 834-acre nature preserve operated by a not-for-profit hosts a summer camp and environmental education programs to adults and children alike. The park itself features hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty, and scenic lakeside views of regional flora and fauna.
7. Muscoot Farms, Katonah:
Once privately run, this family friendly farm was acquired by the county in the 1960’s and has been a public park ever since. Its 777 acres offer visitors hiking trails, and educational tours of barns lively with farm animals.
8. Bear Mountain State Park, Rockland County:
Although located in Rockland County, the Bear Mountain Bridge connects the park to mountainous trails in Westchester County consisting of challenging routes up steep hills to moderate paths through low wetlands and swooping valleys. The mountain lookout on the west side of the park has breathtaking views of the Hudson valley. Though some might view the Bridge as an eyesore in the valley, I see it as a beautiful juxtaposition between the intelligent design of civil engineering and the naturally selected design of the surrounding flora.
9. Burden Preserve, Armonk:
Perfect for long walks in solitude. Being amongst the trees in this park brings an oasis of serenity that is both cleansing and refreshing compared to the din of a town or city. Nature gives us a window to our biological roots and leads us to ask what took us from a species that swung from the limbs of trees to the bipedal creatures we are today. It gives us the perspective that even with all of our technology, we are still so connected to our animal roots– for good or for bad.
10. Croton Gorge Park, Cortlandt: This scenic park features undemanding trails with fountains and bridges. Sitting below the colossal New Croton Dam, this park is another great example of nature meets civil engineering.
I am sure I left some great Westchester parks out so if you have any comments or suggestions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow/ tweet @DylanOKeefe. In hiking always remember to pack the provisions you need with you, carry out what you carry in, and tell someone if you plan to journey alone.
To learn about our county parks: visit: http://parks.westchestergov.com/
Dylan O’Keefe, Greeley Class of 2010, is in his junior year at SUNY Albany.