Yonkers – a Wildlife Refuge?!

In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated Yonkers as an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership city, one of only 16 cities across the U.S. to receive this recognition for protecting significant wildlife habitats.

This designation for Yonkers was made because of the city’s sustained commitment, in partnership with Groundwork and the Service, to restore the local environment, including the daylighting of the Saw Mill River, buried for decades by a parking lot, creating Van der Donck Park. The river park is now home to a wide range of species, including the American eel, river herring, turtles, mallards, muskrat, and threatened birds, such as the American Phoebe.

 Groundwork Hudson Valley received a grant from Five Star Urban Waters Restoration, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to support jobs for young people to engage in hands-on conservation work in the city, preparing them for potential careers in conservation, and to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for Yonkers’ residents.  Projects include continued restoration of the Saw Mill River and the creation and restoration of small nature parks and trails in neighborhoods in southwest Yonkers and throughout the lower Hudson Valley.

The partnership between Yonkers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was developed over the last three years by Groundwork Hudson Valley and its award-winning youth conservation program.  Teens from Yonkers are working at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey to improve habitat along the Wallkill River. In turn, Wallkill staff visit Yonkers to help young people improve biodiversity along the Saw Mill River and soon-to-be constructed Yonkers Greenway. This partnership of youth and federal agency staff is considered a national model of community engagement, building a true partnership between Refuges and urban places.