Village of Pelham and Friends of Highbrook Highline disagree on maintaining park


Sophia Jackson

Flower bed on the Highbrook Highland.

The Village of Pelham and the Friends of the Highbrook Highline are at an impasse over work at the park, which is situated on an old railroad bridge over Highbrook Avenue and on land either side in Pelhamwood.

Susan Mutti, president of the non-profit organization Friends of the Highbrook Highline, said she is frustrated with the village always pushing projects back and making excuses.

Mayor Chance Mullen said Pelham has been trying to do the best it can to maintain the park.

Highbrook Highline trail. (Sophia Jackson)

The Friends of the Highbrook Highline partnered with Boy and Girl scouts to work on the Highline, starting with a scout named Mike Ruggiero creating a historic walking trail in the fall of 2017. But the trail wasn’t opened to the public until January 2020. According to Mutti, Eagle Scout projects are usually opened to the public right away.

Boy Scout Woods Johnson created gardens and benches in May 2018, and in less than two months, the flowers he planted were engulfed by weeds. When Giacorp did a fence installation in the fall of 2019, it destroyed the beds, said Mutti, and the village didn’t recover the restoration costs from the company.

Mullen said the park is a nice space, but since the village didn’t want to spend taxpayer money on the Highline, it relied on the volunteers’ different projects to make it a usable space. He said the idea was to make it a space that was rough around the edges instead of pristine like some areas of Wolfs Lane Park. He said the park isn’t a safety hazard.

The Village of Pelham Sustainability Advisory Board has expressed some interest in guiding what happens at the Highline. Also, there are some community organizations that would like to take over maintenance of the space. Mullen said he wants the village board to make clear decisions on what to do with the space during the next capital planning process in the fall.

No-go area on Highbrook Highline. Sophia Jackson

The mayor said the village is doing the best it can to maintain the park but people want it to be better than that. He said it is difficult for the village because of other priorities, including everything that has happened as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic—getting businesses reopened, expanding restaurant capacity and keeping the emergency vehicles sanitized.

Mullen said, “There are some challenges right now that are more intense than they would otherwise be simply because there are so many priorities on our plate.” Mullen would like see the park further restored in the future. “It is an interesting space and it is cool that you can go up there.”

Girl Scout Caroline Michailoff opened up her garden in late May 2020. The Friends of the Highline have been trying to manage the weeds and the poison ivy since then, and the girl scouts have been volunteering their time to water all the beds.

The Friends of Highbrook Highline wanted the poison ivy service to come and spray the ivy in June, but this has not been done yet. “We want the village to be better stewards of the scout projects they approve,” said Mutti.

The Highbrook Highline represents 22% of Pelham’s open space, said Mutti.