Here’s today’s Hutch Fact:
Hutch Fact #8:
The old expression, “out of sight, out of mind,” applies to the Hutchinson River. It’s easily the most hidden waterway in the Bronx, if not the city. Many area residents are not even aware of the Hutch, never mind strangers. There are few paths where you have access to the river. Most paths are overgrown or in disrepair. Some are makeshift. In most places, fences, walls, and commercial and residential developments prevent access.
You can catch glimpses of the Hutch as you drive along the Hutchinson River Parkway or cross one of the six bridges that span the river in the Bronx, but access to the river from these locations would be illegal and dangerous. In Westchester, except for Lake Innisfree, which was developed for recreational uses, the Hutch flows through the backyards of private residences.
Because of this inaccessability, the Hutch has been subjected to all kinds of projects that have endangered life in and along it’s waters.
The dredging of the Hutch by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to turn it into a shipping channel in the late 19th century damaged and irrevocably changed the character and the ecosystems of the Hutch.
Storm and sewage conduits are continually spewing waste into the Hutch.
The commercial development of parts of the area — first, with Freedomland and then with Coop City — further compromised the Hutch.
The old Pelham landfill and dump (dubbed “Mt. Garbage” by some) on the West bank of the Hutch was used for decades by the Dept. of Sanitation until it was ordered closed in 1968. It was responsible for all types of toxic and noxious pollutants leeching into the Hutch and Eastchester Bay. These toxins were also responsible for many cases of leukemia and other diseases in nearby residents, particularly children. In 1967, the creation of the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary was signed into law to prevent any more parkland from being threatened.
Now the Hutch is being threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change, and by two man-made projects: a proposal by the USACE to build a sea gate across the mouth of the Hutch, which could destroy the salt marshes, and a plan by the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection to construct a water chlorination plant to deal with storm and sewage effluent. This could harm much of the aquatic life in the river, especially at a time when we’re just starting to revive it.
This where HRRP comes in. It’s our mission to educate the public about the Hutch’s history and importance as a vital ecosystem, to work with our communities to make the Hutch safe for recreation and nature, and to raise awareness and calls to action to prevent any further threats and damage.
Tomorrow, Sept. 15th 2019, we’ll be holding our 10th annual Clean Up of the Thomas Pell Sanctuary. It’s one of the most direct ways in which the public can help spread the message about this wonderous resource in our own backyard and keep it “In sight, in mind.”