Parks & Nature
To be clear, the Saw Mill River and Tibbetts Brook Park are only two of Yonkers’s many connections to nature. However, they are two of the most enlightening when understanding exactly what that connection is. Both the river and the park tell a story that must never be forgotten. While their histories are different in particular details, the tales run parallel. Both stories tell of powerful and untamed nature; enters the American pioneer, who obtains rights to land and proceeds to develop it in a way that he or she sees fit. Over time, efforts, in the form of large city-funded projects, are made to beautify both the river and the park. These efforts seek to present the citizens of Yonkers with more outdoor green space, which represents a return to nature—albeit one designed and regulated by mankind.
Tibbetts Brook’s history began before settlers touched the land. It was rich in wildlife and covered in dense forests. The land was, for all intents and purposes, wild. George Tippett settled the land and the very nature that he sought to move towards became a commodity. Centuries passed, and, as history unfolded, the land was passed from hand to hand until it finally made its way into the Westchester County Park Commission. Here, our story enters its final—and ongoing—stage. The development of the land represents the American’s desire to return to nature. It is impossible, of course, for a man to oversee the return of a land back to its undomesticated state; but, we are able to manipulate the land—we are able to take its best elements and develop them in such a way that is mutually beneficial to both ourselves and the environment. And that is exactly what has happened at Tibbetts Brook Park. Decades of improvements have transformed the once unblemished land into a symbol of American suburbia; it is now a beautiful green space that we have cleverly engineered to say nature and civilization at the same time.
The Saw Mill River tells a similar anecdote. The river was, and still is, the longest estuary of the Hudson. Its riverbanks made way for a myriad of wildlife and plant life to flourish. Adriaen Van Der Donck entered the picture after acquiring the land upon which the Saw Mill River flowed; he developed the river’s banks into saw mills, and over time, urban sprawl overtook the land. In recent years, the Saw Mill River also entered its final stage. Now, Yonkers residents seek a return to nature—not the wild, untamed nature that characterized the original Saw Mill River. Instead, the undesirable aspects of nature—most notably, the constant flooding—will be removed, and the beautiful and useful side will be presented to the public. Like Tibbetts Brook, the conquered segment of the Saw Mill River will re-emerge as a natural river—one whose sole purpose is to serve the Yonkers community.