The Need for Action
Page 8 of 10
By the final decades of the 19th century the wilderness revered by the Hudson River School painters was no more. The Palisades, Hook Mountain and Breakneck Ridge were being reduced to rubble by quarrying. The Adirondacks, Catskills, and Hudson Highlands were denuded of trees. People at last took notice. "With the pace of destruction proceeding at an ever more rapid rate, the need for public action was dramatically apparent....Americans responded, and from about 1870 to 1910...sweeping new initiatives were launched to assure that the public interest in natural resources would be protected..." (The Hudson River Highlands, Dunwell, 1991, p. 138-139). In 1885 the Forest Preserve was established to protect the Hudson's watershed in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Thanks to the efforts of the Women's Clubs of New Jersey, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission was established in 1900 as a joint New Jersey and New York project to acquire and protect land on the Palisades. In 1906 the PIPC was expanded to include Hook Mountain and Stony Point. In 1909, the threat of the relocation of Sing Sing Prison across the river to Popolopen Creek was the final straw that resulted in the establishment of Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks. Edward H. Harriman donated $1 million for the purchase of land, plus 10,000 acres from his own estate. Friends such as John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan donated additional funds. None of the robber barons wanted a prison in their summer back yards! In 1910 the PIPC extended its jurisdiction to include both parks.
One of the purposes of the PIPC was to provide access to the parks for the public. As a result, the Commission sponsored road building: the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Palisades Parkway, the Storm King Highway. Automobile access to the river was enhanced with the construction of river crossings: the Bear Mountain (1924), the Mid-Hudson (1930), George Washington (1931) and Tappan Zee (1955) Bridges, and the Holland (1927) and Lincoln (1937)Tunnels. Paradoxically, the highways and bridges added to the alienation from the river brought about by the railroads, by allowing people to move through the landscape without being part of it.