The 6.5 mile Teatown-Kitchawan Trail links three County Parks, Teatown Lake Reservation and three popular trailways. It is the result of an innovative partnership between Teatown Lake Reservation, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Westchester County Parks, and NY-NJ Trail Conference.
On October 6th, a new hiking trail opened in Westchester County that links the North County, the Briarcliff-Peekskill and the Old Croton Aqueduct trailways. It also links to the Teatown Lake Reservation’s network of more than 15 miles of trails and eventually will be tied to the Hudson River Walkway at Croton. The trail also links three county parks in the towns of Yorktown and Cortlandt: Kitchawan Preserve, John Hand/Bald Mountain and Croton Gorge.
The new 6.5-mile Teatown-Kitchawan Trail, TKT for short, is the culmination of a 13-year effort by Teatown to tie together the three major north-south trailways and for the first time to provide hikers access to a rugged wilderness area with deep ravines and steep slopes – and spectacular views of the Croton Reservoir. Special congratulations go to former Teatown Board Chair, Geoff Thompson, who led the team effort.
An opening ceremony on October 6 was attended by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, state, county and local officials, and representatives of Teatown, the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The DEP played a pivotal role in making the new trail possible. “While there are many challenges to balancing water quality and recreational needs, NYC DEP is always interested in collaborating on public access with our municipal and non-profit partners in the watershed,” said Assistant DEP Commissioner Dave Warne. “This particular partnership has resulted in a brand new 6.5 mile trail that can be enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike while still protecting the source of drinking water for nine million New Yorkers. I want to thank the Teatown Lake Reservation for bringing this opportunity to our attention and their work creating this new open space.”
DEP manages the city’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8 million in New York City, and residents of Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties. Approximately 1,000 DEP employees live and work in the watershed communities as scientists, engineers, surveyors, and administrative professionals, and perform other critical responsibilities. Since 1997, DEP has invested over $1.5 billion in watershed protection programs that support sustainable farming practices, environmentally sensitive economic development, and local economic opportunity. New York City’s water is delivered from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and comprises 19 reservoirs, and three controlled lakes.
The idea for an east-west “long trail” linking the three county parks was conceived by Teatown which initially broached the idea with the Westchester County Department of Planning. Teatown, which has a well equipped environmental education center with parking and necessary public facilities, envisioned itself serving as the “hub” at the center of some 2,000-plus acres of open space, all of which could be directly accessed from Teatown.
After careful evaluation, DEP added its support for the concept. Working with representatives over several years, an agreement was worked out under which the DEP developed and issued a recreational Land Use Permit for a trail across its lands on Stayback Hill and Bald Mountain to be maintained and managed by Teatown. This is a unique public-private partnership.
With this agreement in place, a specific route was mapped out and over the last six months, staff and volunteers of Teatown and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, working in close cooperation with the DEP, constructed the new trail. Improvements were also made to existing trails on the county’s Kitchawan and John Hand parks. The result is the new east-west trail. Information kiosks with a map of the trail route have been installed at the primary access points to the new trail.
The trail, which is marked or “blazed” with distinctive purple blazes, begins at the North County Trailway near Route 134 and makes its way west across the Kitchawan Reserve near Route 134 in the southeast corner of Yorktown. When it reaches Arcady Road it crosses onto DEP land and makes its way through the woods and meadows of Stayback Hill. The trail then follows Croton Lake Road, a lightly-traveled and largely dirt-surface road in order to pass under the north and south lanes of the Taconic State Parkway that are widely separated at that point. Once under the parkway the trail returns to DEP lands and climbs Bald Mountain passing through beautiful forest and isolated old meadows affording stunning views of the Croton Reservoir, a wide area of northern Westchester and the distant Hudson Hills and Highlands.
On the southwest side of the county’s John Hand/Bald Mountain Park, the TKT intersects with the Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway. This can be followed south to Teatown or west to Croton Gorge Park and the New York State-owned Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway.
The trail can be accessed from multiple points including parking areas at Kitchawan, John Hand, Teatown and Croton Gorge. The trail is open from dawn to dusk. Parking after dark is prohibited at all locations.
The completion of this trail represents the realization of a long-held dream. It will now be possible to hike all the way from Yonkers to Yorktown on the North County Trailway, cross the TKT and take the Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway all the way back down-county, although you’d likely be pretty tired and sore the next morning! But what is great about it is that it can be hiked in a variety of much shorter increments, so it really offers hiking opportunities for just about anyone.
This project is a great example of a public-private partnership effort involving multiple parties. With everyone working together to reach a common goal, great things can happen and it has been proven with this trail!