The Saw Mill River is a tributary of the Hudson River and is on the state’s 303 (d) “impaired stream” list for “floatables” (plastic bottles and cans) and heavy metals. As it flows through Yonkers, it becomes channelized in concrete, flows underneath old industrial buildings, comes up here and there, flows underneath a parking lot and then was covered over in the 1920s by the US Army Corps of engineers for the last ½-mile before it enters the Hudson. Until now! In December of 2010, the City of Yonkers broke ground on an $18million “daylighting” park in the center of downtown Yonkers. In November of 2011, the river again saw the “light of day” just before it reaches the Hudson River.
One of the organizations that worked very hard on seeing this “daylighting” happen was the Saw Mill River Coalition. The Coalition is a program of the urban environmental non-profit, Groundwork Hudson Valley. The Coalition was formed in 2001 with a vision of revitalizing and protecting the Saw Mill River, and helping people enjoy it!
Through its alliance of nonprofit groups, government agencies, municipalities, and businesses, the Coalition has sought to rebuild the citizen-led river advocacy activities of the 1980s and 1990s in the lower Westchester communities the river flows through on its way to the Hudson. Grants from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program provided initial funding to revive and sustain efforts to protect the river. Continued critical funding has come from Westchester Community Foundation, Hudson River Foundation, and the US EPA.
The Coalition has organized hundreds of volunteers to clean the river’s banks, remove invasive vines, plant native trees and monitor water quality. Its projects have included efforts to improve water quality, encourage sustainable land use, restore habitat and wildlife, promote recreational opportunities, and raise awareness of the river’s history and significance.