October Volunteer Dates!

Join the Friends of Pelham Bay Park and get your hands dirty keeping the park clean!

From 10 am to 1pm, come volunteer in our park!

Saturday, Oct 14 Removing invasive plants in the South Woodlands (Pelham South)
Saturday, Oct 28 Tree planting with NRG/Stewardship Program. Register here.

No experience necessary. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and a long-sleeved shirt, and bring water and lunch.

For more information, or to check for a weather-related cancellation, contact Trail Committee chairperson Nilka Martell at nilkamartell@yahoo.com or 347-992-2860.

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Pelham Bay Park Featured on News12 The Bronx

The Hutchinson River Restoration Project in conjunction with NYC Parks took part in the International Coastal Cleanup organized by the Ocean Conservancy this past Sunday, September 17. Check out the coverage on News12 The Bronx (you may need a subscription to access this article)

We greatly appreciate all the volunteers and organizations, like the Hutchinson River Restoration Project, who help keep our park clean, wild, and beautiful. If you want to participate in future volunteer events, you can always contact us, or contact HRRP by phone at at 718 885 9653 or by email at HutchinsonRRP@aol.com.

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Summer So Far

It’s been a busy and exciting summer in Pelham Bay Park! Here’s what has happened so far:

  • On Thursday, June 22nd, NYC Parks brought SING to the park with Movies under the Stars.
  • Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr and State Senator Jeff Klein hosted their annual fireworks display on June 29th to celebrate Independence Day.
  • Family Fun Day kicked off the summer on July 8. We partnered with the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization to bring an afternoon of fun and entertainment for the whole family.
  • The Pelham Bay Park Administrator’s Office brought juggling, comedy, puppet shows, and acrobats to the Playground for All Children in July and August.

    The Andrew Show at the Playground for All Children c Sam Halpern 2017

    The Andrew Show at the Playground for All Children (Photo: Sam Halpern)

  • The New York Public Library has been reading stories in the shade of the gazebo in the Playground for All Children, every Thursday at 11am.
  • On July 15th, the Pelham Bay Park Administrator’s Office and Bronx Recreation brought roller skating to Orchard Beach for families and adults.

    The Bronx Boogie Roller Jam c Sam Halpern 2017

    The Bronx Boogie Roller Jam (Photo: Sam Halpern)

  • Movies under the Stars came to Orchard Beach on July 21st with Rogue One, the latest movie set in the Star Wars universe.
  • NYC Parks brought Japanese drumming sensation Taikoza to the Playground for All Children on July 22nd.
  • The Bronx Arts Ensemble filled the park with the sweet sounds of Salsa and Afro-Cuban Music with Greg Diamond Band on July 28th.

    Beach Volleyball at Orchard Beach (Photo: Sam Halpern)

    Beach Volleyball at Orchard Beach (Photo: Sam Halpern)

  • On July 29th, Bronx Recreation and the Pelham Bay Park Administrator’s Office bring volleyball back to the beach.
  • Next up: Silent Disco at Orchard Beach on August 12th! RSVP here. [Edit: Silent Disco has been postponed. The event will be held on September 9!]

As always, join our newsletter to always stay up to date on what’s happening in our Pelham Bay Park

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Groundbreaking for Fitness Equipment and Sensory Nature Trail

Parks Department Officials, Elected Officials, Friends of Pelham Bay Park, and Community Members Break Ground

Parks Department Officials, Elected Officials, Friends of Pelham Bay Park, and Community Members Break Ground

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today joined Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene, Council Member James Vacca, the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, and community members to break ground on the installation of new fitness equipment and an accessible nature walk at Pelham Bay Park.

“This project will improve the recreational space here in Pelham Bay Park and will be a useful amenity for both children and adults,” said Commissioner Silver. “I’d like to thank Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Council Member James Vacca, and the Friends of Pelham Bay Park for making this happen.”

“Our parks are critical to a healthier, happier Bronx, especially as we move forward with the #Not62 campaign and work to improve health indicators in every Bronx community. This project will bring new exercise equipment for all ages to Pelham Bay Park, and I am proud to have provided $200,000 from my own capital budget to bring these new amenities to the East Bronx. In partnership with Council Member James Vacca and the Parks Department, we have reinvigorated Pelham Bay Park and ensured that users of all types will be able to get fit and stay fit as a result of this project,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Council Member Vacca contributed $416,000 which will provide various exercise apparatus including a pushup and pull-up bar, sit-up and dip benches, and much more.

“Adding fitness equipment in our parks has been one of my major funding priorities,” said Council Member James Vacca. “It’s no secret that we have a health crisis in the Bronx. Many people do not have access to gyms or exercise centers. These installations provide a convenient place for residents to work out and get in shape. I thank Commissioner Silver, Commissioner Rodriguez-Rosa and the Parks Department for their commitment to this project.”

Additionally, Council Member Vacca provided $100,000 in funding for the nature walk – a development that involves building an accessible path with viewing areas around a small vernal pond in the Playground for All Children. Known as “Pond Walk,” the project will allow children with limited mobility to explore the pond’s edge for the first time. This plan was also advocated for and supported by the Friends of Pelham Bay Park who raised $15,000 which went toward the design of the nature walk.

“Friends of Pelham Bay Park deeply appreciates the generous support of Council Member Jimmy Vacca,” stated Friends’ President Lizbeth Gonzalez. “The Friends spearheaded the Pond Walk initiative to ensure that children of all abilities can experience nature up-close and in a playful way. And just as important, we advocated for outdoor exercise equipment so everyone, irrespective of income, can be fit and look good. Who could ask for anything more?”

This project is expected to be completed by next summer.


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Call for Artists: Garden Exhibition at Bartow-Pell

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum invites artists to submit their work for an outdoor, temporary group exhibition to celebrate the centennial of its formal gardens. Artists selected for the exhibition will have an opportunity for their work to be seen by thousands of visitors to Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, gardens, and grounds, located within Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Artworks that complement the formal gardens and surrounding natural environment, draw on the history of the site, or inspire dialogue, are encouraged. Possible themes may include, but are not limited to, kinetic art incorporating elements in nature; history of gardens and their uses, such as food, medicine, or pleasure; the local ecosystem; or how the built environment co-exists with nature.

Artworks must be capable of withstanding adverse weather conditions and high-traffic areas, suitable for family viewing, and safe for children. All media will be considered, but electrical access is not guaranteed. If the work has a light or sound, for example, it should include reliable solar power. Artists will be responsible for fabrication, transportation, installation, maintenance, deinstallation, and site restoration, including providing tools, materials, and equipment. Proposals will be reviewed by the Museum Curator and Executive Director as well as NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Selected artists will receive a $200 stipend to help cover materials, transportation, or installation. There is no entry fee to apply.

Submission Deadline: Sunday, July 24, 2016

Notification of Selected Artists: August 2, 2016

Exhibition dates: September 2–October 23, 2016


  • Description of proposed artwork (title, medium, dimensions, weight, anchoring procedure)
  • Artist’s statement describing the relevance of the proposed work to the site
  • 3-10 images of work samples. Images must be labeled with artist name and artwork title.
    • If proposing existing work: photographs of artwork, including reference to human scale
    • If proposing a new work: working drawings or photograph of maquette to scale
  • Artist’s resume or CV

EMAIL PROPOSALS TO: bartowpellart@gmail.com. If you have any questions, please contact Alyssa Fridgen at: 718.885.1461. We are looking forward to reviewing your proposals. Thank you for your interest in Bartow-Pell!

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Friends “Picture the Park!” Photo Contest

Split Rock (Photo: Nilka Martell)

Split Rock (Photo: Nilka Martell)

In spring 2015, the Friends of Pelham Bay Park launched its first photography contest, incorporating its Facebook page for voting. Contestants could enter photographs in three of five subject categories: Seasons, People in the Park, Wildlife, Infused by Bronx History, and Scenic Vistas. Categories were rolled out sequentially from February through May and the wonderful photographs submitted provided for new perspectives on the natural resources and activities people enjoy in Pelham Bay Park’s unique landscape. Winners were chosen in each category, with a grand prize given to Nilka Martell for her compelling photograph of the celebrated Split Rock. As Martell commented: “I hope this photo stirs people’s curiosity to learn more about Split Rock and about its importance here in the Bronx.

All the winning photographs were displayed at the City Island Nautical Museum in the summer, and at the Huntington Free Library, in September. A final exhibition venue will be the Poe Park Visitor’s Center. The exhibitions, and the Friends Facebook page, gave people all over the Bronx a chance to better appreciate the beauty of the Park.

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Orchard Beach Boasts 1.7 Million Visitors in 2014

Lifeguards Keep a Keen Watch at Orchard Beach

Lifeguards Keep a Keen Watch at Orchard Beach

The Daily News reported that New York City beaches gained in popularity by 22% during the summer of 2014, but the largest increase was seen at Orchard Beach. The stunning crescent shoreline, and the many recreational and picnic facilities available at this Pelham Bay Park gem, attracted 1.7 million people. Also, while concerts have been annual events at Orchard Beach, this year marked the return of Jennifer Lopez for the first concert in her home borough of the Bronx. All and all, it was a spectacular season for the Park’s man-made beach, opened in 1936 as the brain-child of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and the celebrated New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. They envisioned this “Bronx Riviera” as a magnet for those who make the borough their home, as well as for visitors from well beyond the area. Their dreams were certainly fulfilled in the summer of 2014.

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Bronx Parks: A Year-Long Celebration

Indian Prayer Rock, Pelham Bay Park South. Through early photographs and newspaper accounts, local historian Jorge Santiago identified this massive boulder site as the rock formation once known as the Indian Prayer Rock, with a plaque commemorating the Bronx Parks system. (Photo: NYC Parks Photo Archive)

Indian Prayer Rock. Local historian Jorge Santiago identified this rock formation. (Photo: NYC Parks Photo Archive)

The year 2013 marked the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Bronx parks system and a yearlong celebration ensued, featuring special events, volunteer projects,  lectures, bike tours and much more.  The Bronx Parks 125 committee, chaired by Dart Westphal, planned a program that included four symposia highlighting the historic nature of the parks, a website featuring 125 favorite things in Bronx Parks, as well as web-based self-guided tours and a marketing and outreach campaign to encourage support for our beautiful green spaces.

Mr. Westphal presented a lecture at Bartow-Pell Mansion on the subject of Bronx parks, surveying their rich history and pointing out the influence parks had on the development of the borough as a whole. He gave special attention to Pelham Bay Park and the great mansions that once dotted this area. Bartow-Pell is the only historic mansion remaining.

The goal of the Bronx Parks 125 Committee was to build support for “the continued stewardship and improvement of this marvelous legacy.”  The Committee’s efforts were wholeheartedly supported and encouraged by The Historic Districts Council, an advocacy group for New York City’s historic neighborhoods. HDC selected the Bronx Parks system to be one of the prestigious winners of their 2013 “Six to Celebrate” program.

The image of Indian Prayer Rock, seen above, shows a plaque that was placed there to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Bronx Parks system. The plaque is long gone, but local historian Jorge Santiago found the holes left by screws once holding it in place. According to a 1913 article from The New York Times researched by Mr. Santiago, the Indian Prayer Rock plaque was one of six plaques placed in Bronx Parks at 30th anniversary ceremonies. Scouts, soldiers, bands and noted speakers all participated in those festivities, with the Parks Commissioner and Borough President on hand to pledge support for the preservation and upkeep of Bronx parks.

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Horrific Attack on Park Trees

Tree Damage

Damaged trees in South Meadow woods.

In October 2012, bark was carved off fifteen trees in the verdant area of Pelham Bay Park known as the South Meadow. Possibly inflicted with a hatchet, this damage created a circular loss of bark around the trunk of the trees, cutting off the vascular system that allows nutrients to pass between roots and branches.  Trees often die as a result. This practice, known as “girdling,” is occasionally used by forestry experts to thin out wooded areas, but this was not the case in Pelham Bay Park.  This was a criminal act. The trees involved are Pin Oaks and they stand near one of the Park’s great hiking destinations: a huge and magnificent 400-year-old White Oak. All nature lovers who use the Park are asked to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behavior.  Contact Marianne Anderson, Administrator of Pelham Bay Park, at Marianne.Anderson@parks.nyc.gov or call 718-430-4686.

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Meadow Mowing – A Winter’s Tale

by John Grayley, Natural Areas Manager, Pelham Bay Park

Orchard Beach Meadow (Photo: Peter Quinones)

Orchard Beach Meadow (Photo: Peter Quinones)

This winter, we have done something that we’ve been wanting to do for years at Pelham Bay Park. We broke out the lawn mowers. Over time, any area of grassland will become coarse and rank, losing both diversity and interest, and eventually turn into scrub and woodland if left unmanaged. Until a few years ago, this progression could clearly be seen at Orchard Beach Meadow. The base of the meadow had become dense and matted: the accumulation of dead material was preventing the re-establishment of perennials, resulting in a loss of flowering plants. Numerous woody species monopolized much of the area including Bayberry, Groundsel Bush, Multiflora Rose and Bush Honeysuckle and most had Porcelainberry vine growing over them. It was evident that without intervention the whole meadow would eventually be lost.

The removal of encroaching woody vegetation took several years to complete with the help of volunteers like the Friends of Pelham Bay Park and New York Cares. By early 2013 it was possible to begin a management regime of annual winter mowing. The mowing is scheduled appropriately – all the late-season plants have gone to seed and the ground is frozen to decrease the amount of disturbance. Mowing prevents the re-establishment of shrubs and trees and helps conserve the structure, balance and diversity of the park’s meadows. It will be very interesting to see what species of plants return or appear each year now that we have taken on this natural areas management practice. Who knows, perhaps lilies or even orchids might be found blooming here in the future.

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