photo by Steven Oakes
The Friends' own Sara Kelsey is profiled in the NY State Park February 2021 newsletter! The following is reprinted with permission of State Parks.
For more information and to see the State Parks calendar of events, please go HERE.
"I was born in Michigan and raised in Seattle, with great opportunities to hike up mountains and along forest trails and spend time on the shores of the Great Lakes, Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound. Both of my parents loved nature and got us out in it, as I have done with my three (now grown) children. My first job with a Park Department (in Seattle) was during high school when I was a counselor at an outdoor day camp in a park along the shore of Puget Sound for physically and mentally disabled children and their siblings. I still remember the great delight these children took in experiencing nature in this park setting.
At 73, I am a semi-retired bank regulatory attorney and professor. But when I was given the chance in 2008 to co-head Walks & Tours for the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, I jumped at the chance. This was despite the fact that at the time I was serving as the General Counsel of the FDIC during a financial crisis, dealing with failing banks, and only returning to NY from DC on occasional weekends. I believed and continue to believe that walks and tours along the 26 miles of the New York State Aqueduct State Historic Park and the 15 additional miles in New York City of the 41- mile long Aqueduct would be the best way to tell the story of the historic engineering feat, completed in five years in 1842, when fresh and wholesome water from Westchester County was provided to a thirsty New York City.
Walks & tours expose people to nature. The Aqueduct Trail, located over the Aqueduct, just 4-5 feet below, is a skinny dirt-covered, country trail through the woods and with Hudson River views. This sets the stage for adults and families to travel back in time to hear how John Jervis used his engineering skills and an immigrant work force from Ireland and African Americans from the Great Migration to solve a life-threatening lack of fresh water in New York City. The Trail wends its way through many towns and villages and residential backyards. It connects with State, County, City and Village parks. It provides the opportunity to forge partnerships with these parks and work with them to introduce their parks to Aqueduct travelers. Although the Aqueduct Trail is available to the public seven days a week from dawn to dusk, tours provide guided access to sites of special interest, including the Weir in Ossining (which allows entry inside the Aqueduct) and visits to the Croton Dam in Cortlandt and the High Bridge in New York City. Other tours provide information about the construction of the Aqueduct and the history that was made along that portion of the Trail. Questions are asked and answered about how New York City’s multi-aqueduct water supply works today. I have enjoyed researching and telling these stories and I am very proud of our volunteer walk and tour leaders who are creating and leading tours of their own.
I have enjoyed participating in the many activities of the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, led for the last 20 years by Mavis Cain. The Friends work hand-in-hand on many Aqueduct projects with its Historic Site Manager, Steve Oakes, and NY State Parks, including: restoring the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and creating a Visitors Center with permanent and temporary exhibits and an office for the Historic Park Manager, staffed by volunteer docents; designing Westchester and New York City guides/maps of the Aqueduct trail; awarding 26- and 41-Miler certificates and patches for those (over 200 to-date) who have walked or run the Westchester portion or entire Aqueduct trail; clean-ups, vine cutting and invasive plant removal; and designing and installing wayfinding signs along the trail. Future projects include removal of graffiti from the iconic ventilators along the trail and restoring crumbling stone walls supporting the Aqueduct."