Peter was showing a new arrival around, the gym’s over there, the dining hall here, etc. when they turned a corner and came upon a tremendous wall, extending left and right as far as the eye could see. Startled, the newcomer turned to Peter and asked what it was. “Oh, that’s for the Catholics. They think they’re the only ones up here.”
This joke was told to me in sixth or seventh grade by a nun. I recalled it during today’s run — a relaxed eight-miler along the BRP — as I thought of a recent group of emails I received and a conversation that I had concerning the Rockies, that cathedral of New York-area running. Last year, signs went up around Swan Lake saying that runners’ access to that area was limited to no more than two. This is a difficult rule because your normal group consists of four or five and I confess to having violated it with some Warren Streeters. It was put in place, I was advised by someone at the Rockies, to address hordes of high schoolers that descend around the lake and disrupt other Park users.
Fair enough, if too limiting. I was contacted the other day by Tony, an ultramarathoner who clued me in about the two-person limit — for posting on my WestchesterTrails site — who said something was afoot regarding further rules and regulations.
After some email exchanges with someone actively involved from the “running community” side and a telephone conversation with someone else from that community, I came away with the following.
There is an interest in barring running around Swan Lake and running to the Visitors’ Center at certain times during week-ends. My sources suggest it will be between 11 and 5 during the summer and fall. An alternative, apparently hellish route to the Visitors’ Center is being made. This is important because the Visitors’ Center is the sole source of water, and bathrooms, in the Park. (I say “hellish” because it involves going up an additional hill once one gets to the top of the hill from Bedford Hills Road, which is a hellish hill in itself. As a practical matter, there is no way this affords meaningful running access to the Visitors’ Center. Anyone who’s run up that hill will understand.)
What’s the point of mentioning St. Peter? In all my time at the Rockies, the only problems I have had have been shouting at clueless WTC people blocking the trail and calling to walkers spread across the path that I was “On your left.” Actually that “calling to” should be “shouting at.” And it happens to the oblivious. Not just at the Rockies, of course. People blocking the sidewalk or the path, and I shout so I don’t have to slow down. And if they move with one shout, I’ll say “thank you” as I pass. If I have to do it twice, no “thank you” from me. That shout can sound rude, but it has its purpose.
Thus when I shout at people walking completely across a Rockies path, I’m sure I’m labeled “rude” and “inconsiderate” by those I pass. And apparently walkers have been complaining to the Rockies administration about being unable to enjoy the peace of the Park and the administration believes something needs to be done to address these complaint and that something is restricting access.
I don’t know what the basis for the complaints are. I just speculate that if I were in a group walking completely across the path and someone shouted at me to move over, or worse, I’d be put up upon. And if I were the type I just might call the Park and complain of an unruly old guy who was rude as he raced past.
Putting aside large groups of runners, which can be handled in any number of less-restrictive ways (and thoughts to address that are apparently being batted around), I don’t understand why the recognition that there are multiple users of this park — and the same can be said of any other park, especially Central, or trail or sidewalk on which we run or walk or ride — isn’t good enough.
Restrictions on the use of Swan Lake and the Visitors’ Center are important for two reasons.
First, except for trails at the far south of the Park, one must go through Swan Lake to get from the eastern to the western side of the Rockies.
Second, water. The sole source is the Visitors’ Center, as is the sole bathroom.
Non-runners may say, “why can’t you just walk?” They say that because they’re non-runners. Like the guy who told me as I was doing intervals on a track that I should “take it easy.”
As a practical matter, I don’t particularly care about these restrictions since I would rarely, if ever, be in the Park at those peak times. The same is not the case for ultras, running (I don’t know how) for many hours.
I just don’t understand the need. Runners shouldn’t be rude. Walkers, or runners, shouldn’t be blocking the path and letting their dogs walk off-leash. (Apparently a 10-foot leash is allowed, but that seems too long for me; I believe 6 feet is the rule in NYC.) Horses? I give them a wide berth, and so should everyone else.
I’ve been running on trails in Westchester for nearly forty years. I’ve had few problems, even on single track trails far narrower than those at the Rockies.