6. Much of Van Cortlandt Park was Built Atop a Freshwater Marsh
While walking around some areas of the park today, you can still get the sense of this once-untamed wilderness. Cattails and entangled wild flowers line the walking paths and you can follow signs for Tibbets Brook. At the football fields at the southwest corner of the park, which officially opened on September 22, 1939, it is harder to distinguish any signs of this ecological past. Even the water hazards on the golf course – the country’s first and oldest public course – were created using the existing marsh topography. In total, 681 acres of the park is undeveloped natural woodland, and 89 acres is home to urban wetland.
Perhaps the most significant modification the park endured, came when Robert Moses implemented a series of three major highways with the Mosholu and Henry Hudson Parkways built between 1935-37 and the Major Deegan Expressway in 1956 sectioning off the once unified park into seven pieces.
In 2013, a first-ever master plan was developed for Van Cortlandt Park to strategically protect the park’s ecological health and to enhance the park goers experience. As the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy describes the park, it is “a showcase of the last vestiges in the City of Upstate New York’s native woodlands.”