2014-04-11 / Columnists

Go Parks!

Go Van Cortlandt!
By Margot Perron


The Van Cortlandt House Museum, built in 1748, is the oldest building in the Bronx. Photo by Daniel Avila, NYC Parks. The Van Cortlandt House Museum, built in 1748, is the oldest building in the Bronx. Photo by Daniel Avila, NYC Parks. If you haven’t been to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Van Cortlandt Park is the third largest park in New York City, right behind Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and the Greenbelt in Staten Island. It offers more than a thousand acres atop the ridges and valleys of the northwest Bronx, with playing fields and playgrounds scattered about the park's edges, surrounding a richly forested heartland fed by Tibbets Brook. The park is home to the country's first public golf course, the oldest house in the Bronx, and the borough's largest freshwater lake.

It also boasts one of the best and most heavily-used cross-country courses in the country, popular with everyday runners of all levels and host to challenging cross country competitions. Whether you are a marathon runner, a Sunday jogger, or love watching running competitions, come and experience this exciting sport for yourself. The course starts on the flats, a grassy area known as the Parade Grounds. It passes through twists and turns, uphills and downhills, with one of the most memorable challenges named “Cemetery Hill.” A dozen collegiate cross-country competitions are held here, and big upcoming running events include Manhattan College High School’s Cross Country Invitational, which attracts thousands of runners from many states, Canada, and beyond. You might just spot a contender in spring training when you visit.


The park’s acreage includes the borough’s largest freshwater lake. Photo by Malcolm Pinckney, NYC Parks. The park’s acreage includes the borough’s largest freshwater lake. Photo by Malcolm Pinckney, NYC Parks. From the quiet green shade of its oak forests to the crisp white mantle of cricket players atop the Parade Ground, the park boasts a past rich in culture, wellversed in history, and blessed with the intrinsic beauty of nature.


Van Cortland Van Cortlandt has four playgrounds to choose from for a little extra fun after a day in the woods or beside the lake. Van Cortland Van Cortlandt has four playgrounds to choose from for a little extra fun after a day in the woods or beside the lake. Van Cortlandt Park has four playgrounds. Our newest, Sachkerah Woods Playground, is around the corner from Montefiore Hospital and the Mosholu Golf Course. The playground has modern equipment and a spray shower fashioned as a golf fairway.

NYC Parks’ Urban Park Rangers lead family-friendly activities in Van Cortlandt all year round. This spring, join the rangers at the Van Cortlandt Park Nature Center for Kids Week on Thursday, April 17 and Friday, April 18.

The rangers will lead a variety of free, outdoor activities for kids ages 12 and under. Check out native salamanders with the rangers on Sunday, May 18, or enter into a lottery to go family camping with the rangers on May 31. A short hike up Vault Hill leads to a huge stone outcropping of Fordham gneiss bedrock and beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline. Or take a walk around the lake and look for colorful wood ducks and their adorable ducklings. Van Cortlandt is the only park with breeding pairs of wood ducks in New York City.

The Van Cortlandt House Museum is the oldest building in the Bronx, and offers free tours on Wednesday. George Washington really did sleep here!

Our free weekly bird tours with the Audubon Society began Saturday, April 5 and continue every Saturday throughout the season. On Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, NYC Parks is proud to join with Bike New York to offer free “Learn to Ride” classes for kids who want to learn how to ride a bike.

For more information on these and other programs for a great day of fun, adventure and new experiences in the great urban outdoors, go to www.nyc. gov/parks and search Van Cortlandt Park.

Go great days in the great outdoors! Go Park!

– Margot Perron is the NYC Parks Administrator for Van Cortlandt Park –

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