The New York City Inline Skating Guide
Where to Skate: Westchester
The following description of the Kensico Dam Plaza and the Bronx River Parkway is by Lise Broer and originally appeared in the October 1995 issue of the New York City edition of MetroSports magazine.
If Central Park is the social center of the skating scene in New York City, then the Kensico Dam at Valhalla is Westchester County's Central Park. It was first built as an earthen dam between 1880 and 1885. Stone quarried from nearby Cranberry Lake Park replaced the earth in 1915 and created a paved plaza. Named after the great hall in Norse mythology where the souls of heroes are honored, the plaza has several turn-of-the-century attempts to invoke Teutonic imagery. The Kensico Dam holds 30,573,000,000 gallons of water in a reservoir covering 13.3 square miles. It supplies water to New York City and to several Westchester communities. Local skaters recognize its real value as a skating center.
The plaza is mostly flat and well-paved. The t-shaped circuit varies the scenery and keeps the skate interesting. This is a good place to learn how to skate. Although there is no official direction of travel, most skaters follow a counterclockwise path.
Some of the local skaters maintain a slalom course at the western edge of the loop by the dam. While this course has only 20 cones and a slight grade, cones are spaced at standard 6 foot competition width. Slalom skaters accelerate along the dam and make a right turn to enter the course for high speed "ballistic" runs. As with other slalom sites, keeping the course clear is a constant concern. Here the main danger is from novice skaters who stray close to the cones as they do a loop.
Near the center of the plaza away from the loop is an area favored for roller hockey. The rough quality of the concrete here creates a great grip, but is notorious as an eater of wheels. Wear pads to play here. It isn't any easier on the skin.
Fitness skaters may be bored by the small size of the plaza. One way to add a few more kilometers to a workout is to go south along the Bronx River Pathway. The Pathway is an 807 acre linear park extending 13.2 miles from the Kensico Dam south to New York City. It runs parallel to the Bronx River Parkway and the Metro-North Harlem Line. To reach it from the Dam, exit at the southeast edge of the plaza and go east. The Pathway picks up across Broadway.
The pathway portion from the Kensico Dam Plaza south to the Westchester County Center in White Plains is fair for skating. This comprises slightly more than half of a 5 mile trail. Several other portions of the Bronx River Pathway are open to bicycles. Westchester In-line Skating Association president Eric Paulson shares a warning. "I would discourage anyone from skating most of it. The pavement is just too patchy." On Sundays during May, June, September, and October skaters have an extra treat. The Bronx River Parkway itself is closed to traffic from the Westchester County Center in White Plains to Fisher Lane in North White Plains. While the program is named Bicycle Sundays, the Westchester Parks Department invites skaters to take advantage too.
Although the above was written in 1995, the Bronx River Parkway Sunday closings have followed close to the same schedule in subsequent years. Note, though, that the closing only lasts four hours, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It's said to be a scenic skate/ride.
There is about a two or three-mile loop at the SUNY Purchase campus, where Purchase St. ends just past Anderson Hill Road. The Mall, a road which bisects the campus, has been recently repaved and is reputed to be a fine place for grinding, bashing, and other aggressive skating.
In Rye, there is a seven-mile flat loop which uses Milton Road and Forest Ave. Auto traffic is supposed to be fairly heavy, though, so be careful.
The North County Trailway is a rails-to-trails project created along the right of way of the former Putnam Line Railroad, which ceased operation in 1962. Westchester County acquired the easement and gradually paved it and created a bike trail about 22 miles long. More info is on the Westchester county website, including a map. Inline skating is expressly permitted on the trail, but you'll have to contend with pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, etc.
The trail was first constructed as three sections, and then the sections were linked up in the late 1990s.
- Section 1, 2.7 miles.
- Runs from Old Saw Mill Road in Eastview (near the Eastview exit from the Saw Mill River Parkway) to just past the Westchester County police HQ. The nice thing about this section is that there are no road crossings to worry about; the bad thing is that the lack of crossings means that the only place to access the path is from the starting point. From the start, you can also link to the Tarrytown-Kensico asphalt path, which is about 1.1 miles long.
- Section 2, 7.4 miles.
- Runs from near the intersection of Routes 117 and 9A in Briarcliff north to the intersection of Routes 134 and 100 near Kitchawan. There are plenty of road crossings, which means lots of access points and also lots of places where you have to be cautious. Also, part of the northern end is also the shoulder to Route 100, so you have road crud, dust and exhaust to put up with.
- Section 3, 5 miles.
- Runs from Hanover St. in Yorktown (close to the fire station) north to where Route 118 crosses the Westchester-Putnam county line at Baldwin Place. This section has some pretty nice scenery (excepting a sewage treatment plant) and probably the best asphalt. There are plenty of access points and road crossings. The intersection with Route 35 is said to be particularly dangerous. A good place to park, at least on weekends, if you want to skate this section of the trail is the lot at the Jilco Corp. on Mahopac Ave. north of Rte. 35, about halfway up the trail.
So one can skate all the way from Eastview (Pocantico Hills) to Baldwin Place. The trestle bridge between Kitchawan and Yorktown is supposed to be a highlight of the trail.