by Art Gunther
Bear Mountain, N.Y. — I once overheard, in this verdant wonderland of forestation, an earnest fellow say to his four year old: “They call Bear Mountain that because it is bare on top.” Well, it is bare, but that’s not the reason for the moniker. We local hayseeds know that.
This beautiful part of the heavy mountain ranges off the Hudson River is part of the New York State parks system, and specifically in the Palisades Interstate Park network. The park, like its umbrella Harriman State Park and other New York parks in the Hudson Valley region, has been underfunded for decades. But still, Bear Mt. State Park is full of trails, famous stone structures crafted by Depression-era artists, some pools, quite a few lakes and the historic Bear Mountain Inn (itself long-needing fuller restoration).
For decades–at least since the inn’s construction in 1915–we locals have driven to, hiked to, or, once upon a time, taken the West Shore Line train to Bear Mountain on weekdays. During the week, the urban crowds are back at work. (No complaints about city folk, of course—they help keep the parks going, too.) It’s like when company goes home. You have the house to yourself once again—it is a delight.
Bear Mountain Inn was designed in the Adirondack Great Camps style, and it never goes out of style–literally. Even a poorly done 1970s retrofit with blonde wood, now removed, could not wither the great oaks and other dark woodwork of this monumental building.
My hope is that the Palisades Parks Conservancy, properly formed to aid “the improvement of and activities in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and for the purposes of promoting and expanding the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources in the Park for the benefit of the public,” will someday be successful in restoring Bear Mountain State Park, its parking lots, its trails, its zoo, its inn, its skating rink and many other features. That way, the “great masses” will continue to visit—from New York City and beyond. May the bears continue to roam at Bear Mt. And humans, too.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. This column was originally published on his weekly blog, The Column Rule.