BEGINNINGS: PIONEERING WALKS ALONG A CHANGING URBAN WATERFRONT
The Shorewalkers was formed in 1982 after a few curious New Yorkers set out to explore the waterfronts and shorelines in the greater New York Metropolitan region. In the 1980s, large sections of the shoreline were inaccessible, and several piers were inhabited by homeless people who set up shacks in their darkened recesses. To Shorewalkers, the City’s waterfront was, and is, a breath of fresh salt air, exciting, scary at times, and ever-changing.
“The Shorewalkers intend to hike the entire coast of NYC…” read the introduction in the first, brief Shorewalkers’ newsletter. The Village Voice and other local weeklies listed our first monthly walks. A few brave, curious souls came along to explore the virtually unknown waterfront.
Since its founding, Shorewalkers has led some 2500 year-round walks and hikes exploring extensive shore areas throughout the greater New York metropolitan region.
Shorewalkers’ first hike took place Sunday, December 12, 1982 along the west coast of Manhattan. Our announcement read:
“Explore the changing Hudson River Coast, Battery Park, the Westway Route, active piers, through Penn-Central railroad yards and into Riverside Park. Lunch stop in Harlem. Wilderness above the George Washigton Bridge, wind up in an Irish pub in Inwood”
We walked through Penn Central Yards, which then were active railroad freight lines between 59th St. and 72nd St. The rail yards have since been converted to blocks of dull condominiums and a strip of green called Riverside Park South. And it really was wilderness north of the George Washington Bridge along the deteriorating waterfront through little used parks, one of which is still unnamed. At the time, Irish Inwood bars dispensed beer at 15 cents a glass, a price that shocked several lawyers who walked with us. “Westway” was the highly debated proposed highway in a tunnel from 42nd St. to the Battery, built on landfill. It would have added at least 300 acres of parkland to the Hudson River Park. It was never built, alas.
Since 1982, Shorewalkers has been a leading advocate of environmental and other quality-of-life projects in the New York City Metropolitan Region, emphasizing the opening to the public of waterfront property. Some of Shorewalkers’ projects are to:
Increase shore access for walkers and others; encourage youth to walk.
Expand shore trails in-and-around the New York archipelago.
Pedestrianize all New York City bridges.
Create the Grand Harlem River Park Recreation Area by integrating the parks and playgrounds around the Harlem River, connecting them with a greenway, and forming a unique urban park surrounding the six-mile, 250-acre saltwater strait.
Establish and popularize the Great Saunter Walking Trail around Manhattan.
Dedicate and Popularize the unique, historic 56-mile Batt-to-Bear Trail from the Battery to Bear Mountain, which has been developed by Shorewalkers.