Van Cortlandt Park
|Van Cortlandt Park|
View of the Parade Ground from the starting line of the famed 2.5-mile cross-country course
|Location||The Bronx, New York City, NY, USA|
|Area||1,146 acres (464 ha)|
|Operated by||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
Van Cortlandt Park is a 1,146-acre (464 ha) park located in the Bronx in New York City. It is the fourth largest park in New York City, behind Pelham Bay Park, Flushing Meadows Park and Staten Island Greenbelt.
The park was named for Stephanus Van Cortlandt, who was the first native-born mayor of New York, and the Van Cortlandt family, which was prominent in the area during the Dutch and English colonial periods. Contained within the Park is the Van Cortlandt House Museum, the oldest building in the Bronx. The park is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Van Cortlandt Park contains New York City's largest freshwater lake.
The land that Van Cortlandt Park now occupies was purchased by Jacobus Van Cortlandt from John Barrett around 1691. Passed on to his son Frederick Van Cortlandt (1699–1749) and family, it was once a vast grain plantation. In 1748, Frederick built what is now known as the Van Cortlandt House on the property, but died before its completion. Frederick willed the massive home and surrounding lands to his son, James Van Cortlandt (1727–1787).
The Van Cortlandt family land was used during the Revolutionary War by Rochambeau, Lafayette, and Washington. It was in this area that the Stockbridge militia was destroyed by the Queen's Rangers; a stone memorial was placed at "Indian Field" in 1906.
In 1888, the family property was sold to the City of New York and made into a public parkland, with the majority of the grain fields converted into a sprawling lawn dubbed "The Parade Ground". The Van Cortlandt House was converted into a public museum and, with the city's approval, particularly overgrown areas of the property were made passable. Wide walking paths were built over original walkways, including the thin paths that led to the Van Cortlandt family cemetery, high on the nearby bluffs.
In 1907, due to overcrowding, Dr. William Hornaday transferred several of the Bronx Zoo's then-rare bison to Van Cortlandt Park's parade grounds. Later that year, they were shipped to prairie land in Oklahoma.
Robert Moses's development plans in the 1930s called for the construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway and Mosholu Parkway to bisect Van Cortlandt Park and meet at a cloverleaf interchange about half a mile north of the center. The last remaining freshwater marsh in New York City was dredged and landscaped to accommodate construction.
The city's fiscal crisis in the 1970s caused much of the park to fall into disrepair. Gradual improvements began taking place from the late 1980s through the mid-2000s, including the addition of new pathways, signage, and security.
The Van Cortlandt Golf Course, the nation's first public golf course, opened in 1895 and is located centrally on the park grounds. The "Parade Ground" north of the museum in the western part of the park is one of New York's principal cricket fields. The Putnam Trail, an unpaved trail, runs north through the woods to the east of this lawn and west of Van Cortlandt Lake, through the golf course and along Tibbets Brook and the former New York and Putnam Railroad line into Yonkers where it connects to Westchester County's paved South County Trailway. Another bikeway runs east from the golf course's clubhouse to connect to the Mosholu Parkway bike path. The Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway begins in Van Cortlandt Park.
Van Cortlandt Park is a popular site for cross country running owing to its miles of cinder trails and hills. The path surrounding the Parade Grounds, known to runners as the "flats," is 1.37 miles (2.2 km) around. The infamous "back hills" provide a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) loop in the northwestern section of the park.
The park was used for the Northeast regional championships of the Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships until 2009 and is used as numerous college championships each fall. The famed 2.5-mile (4 km) course is used for most high school races, including the Manhattan College Invitational, one of the largest high school cross-country meets in the nation. In 2006, the USA Cross-Country Championships were held at Van Cortlandt and organised by USATF and New York Road Runners.
The park is also used for many college races and is the home course for Fordham University, Iona College, New York University and Manhattan College (which is located right across the street). The college course is 5 miles (8.0 km). It is used annually for the ICAAAA championships and has hosted the NCAA championships on numerous occasions (10k).
The park is the home course for the Van Cortlandt Track Club. From its humble origins in the late 1970s as a small group of runners meeting for jaunts around the Jerome Park Reservoir in the Bronx, Van Cortlandt Track Club has grown into one of the most prominent running clubs in New York City.
In popular culture 
Van Cortlandt Park was referenced in Jose Rivera's play Marisol as a place where neo-Nazis burn homeless people alive in the apocalyptic world of the play.
See also 
- "Indian Field". City of New York Parks and Recreation. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- "Van Cortlandt Park". Forgotten New York. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
- Van Courland House National Park Service
- National Historic Landmark Survey, New York, retrieved June 3, 2007.
- Foot Locker Cross-Country Home Page, viewed Nov. 9, 2009.
- Van Cortlandt Park at gojaspers.com, URL accessed November 15, 2009. Archived 11/15/09
- Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy
- New York City Department of Parks and Recreation VCP page
- Van Cortlandt Track Club
- Cross country at Van Cortlandt Park
- Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course
- Friends of Van Cortlandt Park