National Geographic features Yonkers Daylighting Park in September 2022 Issue

The Daylighting of the Saw Mill River, initiated more than 20 years ago, is highlighted as a “hard-won” urban conservation effort.

Yonkers, NY, September 12th, 2022 — National Geographic has featured the Yonkers Saw Mill River Daylighting Park in its September issue “America The Beautiful”. The park, known as Van der Donck Park, was initiated more than 20 years ago and has become a landmark in downtown Yonkers while continuing to flourish.

America in a New Light” by Emma Marris highlights conservation approaches outside of protected areas and introduces the idea that species can be conserved on working lands and in cities. Marris shares, “Nothing illustrates the promise of urban conservation more poetically than “daylighting” a creek. It’s easy to forget that all cities were built on ecosystems, and many had rivers and creeks running through them.” The Saw Mill River is a major natural resource in Westchester County and a vital riparian corridor that runs from Chappaqua to Yonkers.

The Daylighting of the Saw Mill River was a multi-phased project that included a new urban river and parks through the center of downtown Yonkers where the Saw Mill River was buried beneath the City in the 1920s. Today, it is a public park boasting an outdoor classroom and stage and is home to many different species.

Brigitte Griswold, Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Executive Director added, “It was a true team effort involving a diverse set of stakeholders to restore a river that was buried under a parking lot for nearly 100 years. Some of the many achievements of this ambitious project are improvements in habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife; a revitalized downtown which has boosted the local economy; an enhanced flooding and storm water management system; and a green space for a community surrounded by concrete and buildings. The leadership of many brought this vision to light and we are now reaping the social, economic, and environmental benefits as a community.”

“Van der Donck Park’s inclusion in National Geographic’s America the Beautiful issue is the perfect celebration of this urban gem’s tenth anniversary,” said Mayor Mike Spano. “The daylighting of the Saw Mill River in the heart of our downtown inspired us to expand or upgrade many of our city’s public parks over the past decade.”

Former New York State Governor, George Pataki, was one of the pioneers of this project. Mr. Pataki shares, “The daylighting of the Saw Mill River in downtown Yonkers was a historic moment for the City of Yonkers and for New York State and it was a highlight of my years as Governor. It was a significant investment in the environmental resilience of the community, but perhaps more importantly, it serves as a great example of what can be accomplished when a large and varied group of people, non-profits, businesses, government, and other community organizations work together toward a common goal.”

This wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership of many – The City of Yonkers, Westchester County, New York State, Scenic Hudson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Philipse Manor Hall, PS&S, US Army Corps of Engineers, the Yonkers Downtown BID, and Beczak each played a huge role in the design, implementation, funding, and execution of this urban conservation effort. Engaging the local community and valuing the input and ideas they provide proves that environmental conservation and stewardship is possible in even the most unlikely of places.

Read the full article here. Read the section on Yonkers here.

About Groundwork Hudson Valley: Groundwork Hudson Valley is an environmental justice non-profit working with communities to improve climate resilience, promote sustainability education, and nurture the next generation of environmental leaders. For more information visit