Keeping Up with the Old Croton Aqueduct

Visitors have been hiking and biking the Hudson Valley's Old Croton Aqueduct trail for almost 50 years. Yet, the State Historic Park has never had an Visitor Center to provide a central repository of information and visitor services for the park's patrons.

The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct have been working for over 14 years to create such a Center. They have led the effort to renovate the 1840s Keeper's House, which sits in downtown Dobbs Ferry overlooking the Hudson River. The plan is to open a visitor and education center within the house, which is part of the National Historic Landmark Designation. The center will offer amenities for walkers, bikers, and the general public, and perhaps more important, it will be complete with educational exhibits and displays about the creation of the Aqueduct Tunnel and its contribution to the life, health, and prosperity of New York City. The center will be open to the public and will welcome school groups and other history scholars. Temporary programs will center on global water needs.

Raising the funds for the rehabilitation of the Keeper’s House has been a daunting task. The lowest bid was for $1,200,000. To meet the budget, the Friends have sought and obtained funds from private individuals, corporations, and government agencies like the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program. They have also received grants through PTNY’s Growing the Grassroots grants program.

Mavis Cain, President of the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, with photos depicting the progress already made in restoring the Keeper's HoUSE.

This year, the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct will receive $47,475 through the brand new Park and Trail Partnership Program, a New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)-funded grants program for Friends of New York State Parks and Historic Sites.

The Friends will use the Park and Trail Partnership Program grant funds for the creation and installation of seven storytelling exhibits in the educational displays and exhibit materials for the new Visitor and Education center, housed within the recently rehabilitated Keeper’s House. Exhibits within the Keeper's House will enable the park to offer visitors an experience that goes beyond the pleasures of walking a beautiful 26-mile trail. Interpretive materials in the exhibit, designed by Laura Compagni and Laurel Marx, will emphasize the importance of the Old Croton Aqueduct in New York City's growth and the engineering feats accomplished by the Aqueduct's designers and builders. The Friends hope the exhibit will encourage interest in New York City's past and present water needs.

Thanks to the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, this State Historic Park will finally have an active focal point, a center where the public can visit to learn about the park's rich history. In the exhibit rooms, the general public will be able to learn new information. Schools and other groups interested in history will be able to combine outdoor trail activities with more formalized learning experiences. Students from Mercy College, who currently engage in outdoor volunteer work for the park, will now be able to volunteer year-round. Community residents will serve as docents at the center. Changing exhibits and informative lectures will keep visitors coming back again and again to learn, in addition to returning to bike and walk.

The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct have done a marvelous job shepherding this project through all stages and providing significant monetary support. Their work is a great example of a public-private partnership done well. Congratulations to the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct. We can't wait to visit the completed Keeper's House soon!

Schoolchildren frequently visit the old croton aqueduct. One child made a sign expressing how much they liked it.


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