The big idea is to coordinate development in the Croton Bay watershed—outlined in this aerial photo—with the resource management plans for retaining biodiversity in the Hudson Highlands to the east and in the remarkable Hudson River estuary to the west.
Umbrella protections for both the Croton Bay and Croton Reservoir watersheds would help keep the Croton River and Indian Brook as healthy as possible as a drinking water supply for nearly 20,000 residents and as a vital wildlife corridor and habitat connecting the Hudson to the Highlands.
The Croton River is only 3.5 miles long from the dam to the Hudson. Indian Brook in Ossining, which is a tributary, is much shorter. But within these short local distances, we find both diverse ecosystems and—at times—divergent legal systems.
Our watershed is crazy quilt of local, state and county jurisdictions. Conflicting rules and land use policies cross all levels of government. One crazy quilt example can be found if we examine Paradise Island, a popular destination in the tidal section of the Croton River (shown here on this topographical map and in the red circle on the aerial photo * above).
Download this map in .pdf format.
Paradise Island itself is owned by Westchester County and managed by the County Parks Department, which has no direct access to the site. Mayo’s Landing provides the closest public access to the Island and is owned by Village of Croton and the site of erosion gulleys, stormwater outfalls, and a rare patch of level riverbank.
Just to the east, Deer Island is privately owned, as are the steep slopes on the eastern shore beyond Deer Island. Erosion due to foot traffic is quite apparent on eastern shore’s steep private properties which fall under by three different towns in just this tiny stretch of river: Cortlandt, New Castle, and Ossining.
Hence, within a 200 foot circle off the upstream tip of Paradise Island, the river rubs up against five different governments each with hitherto uncoordinated regulations.
The following governments or agencies have jurisdiction over ownership of, or an enforcement role in the parcels that comprise our 3,000 acre watershed between the Croton Dam and the Croton Bay Esturary on the Hudson River. Let’s call these stakeholders collectively as “The Croton Bay Watershed Partnership.”
The Croton Bay Watershed Partnership would include representatives from the following 13 agencies:
The good news is there has never been a better time to coordinate our efforts. We have neven had so many complementary resources available to draw on for studying how to protect our scenic and vital watershed.
Resources for the Croton River and Bay Watershed Partnership include, alphabetically, but are not limited to the following 15 organizations:
We have much to gain from saving the Croton River and Croton Bay watershed! Protecting the drinking water for Croton and Ossining residents, swimming, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and, of course, scenic beauty, not to mention a healthy habitat for bald eagle, heron, ducks, and myriad fish including migrating species such as trout, striped bass, and shad.
PS. Look for Joel Gingold’s public lecture and slide show on “Saving the River” at the Croton Free Library, June 2, 2007, a Friends of History project.
Editor’s Note: The author is a former Village of Croton-on-Hudson Trustee who served three terms from 2001 to 2007.