2017 was a milestone year for the Friends. Not only did we celebrate our 25th Anniversary (along with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park), but we also saw the culmination of some key Friends’ initiatives – the opening of Pond Walk, the installation of new outdoor fitness equipment, and the announcement of $50 million to begin reconstruction of the Orchard Beach Pavilion.
The biggest news of this year is of course the renovation of the Orchard Beach Pavilion. The first-phase reconstruction will restore and protect the landmarked building and create a new, accessible beach passage through the building’s core to re-activate the space. The Friends will continue to work closely with Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr to ensure a bright future for this iconic structure and brighten the shores of the only public beach in the Bronx.
Our commitment to make Pelham Bay Park more accessible for all users remains one of our primary goals. After raising funds for the design conception of Pond Walk a few years ago, we worked with Council Member Jimmy Vacca and, this summer, joined him and NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver to cut the ribbon on this wonderful, inclusive element at the Playground for All Children. The newly created nature walk allows children of all abilities an opportunity to get close to nature in a special way.
In the spring, our fundraiser focused on developing even more ways to connect children with nature. As a result, we are working closely with the Pelham Bay Park Administrator’s Office to introduce natural play features at Pond Walk. As children spend less and less time in unstructured play, especially outdoors, we seek to re-connect them with the natural world by fostering hands-on learning experiences.
The Friends’ efforts to protect, preserve and ensure the park’s future are broad-ranging, from support and hands-on participation in reforestation efforts to increasing enforcement patrols and committed city funding. Our partnerships have fostered new park amenities like the adult fitness area and new children’s fitness play unit, and our commitment is enduring and long-term. For example, this summer, Council Member Vacca allocated funds to upgrade the park’s Sensory Garden which we helped establish a decade ago. The Garden contains plants of various colors, textures and scents and a raised planting bed accessible to wheelchairs. Each year the Friends fund a Gardener/Educator to provide hands-on lessons for local special needs children.