An interview with Tom Bergen reveals an energetic New Yorker, fascinated with the city, a walker who enjoys wearing many hats. Perhaps best known to Shorewalkers as a Shorewalker leader, many who have been on Tom’s walks have shared his fun exploring little known parts of the city and his enjoyment of company of other walkers. On Matt and Zoe’s hikes around Manhattan, Tom learned about little treasures, like the 61/2 Avenue walkway and the many Shakespeare companies around Central Park; Tom went on Ellen’s Astoria hike when he first started walking with Shorewalkers and saw how a walk can be created by weaving together some interesting places and enjoyable views.
With encouragement by Cy Adler, President of Shorewalkers, to lead walks to areas he most enjoyed, Tom’s led his first hike to the interesting Hispanic Museum/Morris Jumel Mansion area. At the heart of Shorewalkers are interested volunteers who help maintain the club at high quality and low cost. Later Tom researched and created walks to Governor’s Island.
Tom especially enjoys planning walks in the Bronx. At first unfamiliar with the borough, Tom went on Shorewalkers’ hikes along the East River in the Bronx, as well as a hike along the Bronx River led by the Bronx River Alliance. Tom has since explored the Bronx a bit more and has led two hikes down the Bronx River. Yet another hike, planned and scouted with Cy in the northern Bronx, ” Rattle Snake Creek” area, has become one of Tom’s favorites, the path under the New England Thruway and then past Split Rock on to the bridle path in Pelham Bay Park. Another Bronx walk that Tom led in January 2014 explored the area from the Poe Cottage down to the Grand Concourse. There are enough parks and vistas and historic sites in the Bronx that you can string a walk together in almost any direction. Now a Shorewalker leader for the past three years, Tom is continuing to plan and design new walks in New York’s northern most borough.
Tom discovered an organizing theme for developing hikes. For example, Tom noted that there is an old, abandoned train station along the Bronx River at Westchester Avenue that was designed by Cass Gilbert. And it turned out there are three others nearby. Tom researched online about Bronx railroad history and discovered that there are a lot of abandoned stations and tracks and train yards around the Bronx that could be interesting stops along a walk. He mapped a route, approx. ten miles, connecting these points, walking through parks or by historic sites along the way.
Similarly, Tom notes another interesting aspect of the Bronx, sites of old estates and mansions, another feature to point out on his walks. Tom also credits Shorewalker hikers as a source of suggestions for places to hike and sites to visit. Tom noted that sometimes the hardest part of planning a hike is just finding enough convenient restrooms and deciding where to stop for lunch. Identifying a lunch site offering people a place to sit and chat while they eat, big enough to accommodate a group of hikers and with some stores and a restroom nearby can factor into planning a walk.
What Shorewalkers may not be as familiar with, the other “Shorewalker hat” that Tom wears, is that Tom is instrumental with helping Shorewalkers enter the “online world” as well. Working with Rachel Conrad and Shorewalker Vice President Nick DiNapoli, Tom took on administration of the Shorewalker Meetup group about two years ago. Tom enjoys his roles with Shorewalkers and notes that it has been a lot of fun seeing the club grow.
As a sidebar to his involvement with the Shorewalker website, Tom finds that a lot of really good photography gets posted (both on Meet-up and on the Shorewalker website) after the walks, and that it’s fascinating how different people on the same walk see things differently (sometimes things that you would never have noticed otherwise). Tom notes how this sharing enriches the experience; he encourages everyone to bring their camera, appetite and join him on future walks and explorations.