Alongside rare Pink Lady Slipper orchids that sprinkle the woodland trail lie artifacts of a once-bustling quarry that supplied granite used to build the Kensico dam. Nestled in the Cranberry Lake Preserve, a Westchester County park that lies within the Kensico reservoir's watershed of New York State, this trail carves a path that weaves together the history of the dam's construction with the beauty of the natural environment, and highlights the importance of protecting the watershed.
Many are interested in history, so I thought that we could tell the story of the building of the dam and raise awareness about the watershed, in concert with the beauty of a nature walk.
-- Donna Kowal
For her junior year internship project, environmental studies major Donna Kowal developed the Cranberry Lake Preserve History Trail, a two-mile, self-guided walk that tells part of the story of the building of the Kensico dam. Artifacts of the now-defunct quarry and the people who worked there are points of interest in Kowal's history trail. As part of this project, Kowal mapped and marked the trail, developed and produced the trail map brochure, created a virtual tour of the trail, and helped design an outdoor plaque that explains the importance of a watershed, which overlooks the Kensico reservoir.
A special calling
Kowal has been actively involved in environmental issues both on and off campus. For this project, she wanted to do something that would be beneficial to the community and the environment. As a frequent visitor to Cranberry Lake, a former secretary of KEEP (Kensico Environmental Enhancement Program, whose goal is to educate the community about the Kensico watershed), and a member/past-Treasurer of the Pace student environmental club, NATURE, Kowal realized she had an opportunity to raise environmental awareness in a unique and different way. “People don't know much about the Kensico reservoir, the watershed, or the building of the dam. But many are interested in history, so I thought that we could tell the story of the building of the dam and raise awareness about the watershed, in concert with the beauty of a nature walk.”
Kowal created a coalition of supporters to put the trail on the map, including officials from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), KEEP, and Westchester Parks Department, which all provided funding for the project. In addition, Pace University, Friends of Cranberry Lake, Inc., Hudson Valley Orienteering, and Mount Pleasant Historical Society also provided assistance with mapping the trail and providing historical information.
At the opening day ceremony, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano said, “It's about the collaboration among Pace, Westchester County, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the Historical Society, and many others that makes this trail special. Donna has done a fantastic job coordinating this project.”