The first major project undertaken by the Foundation at the suggestion of the National Park Service and in partnership with the NPS was the recreation of the Roosevelt family home garden.
The Foundation raised $350,000 from individuals and charitable foundations, a sum that was matched by the NPS as a 2016 Centennial grant. Over the subsequent two years the soil in this two-acre area has been graded for draining, improved with organic material, provided with fencing and irrigation piping, and planted in ground cover. In 2018, the first vegetable crops were planted and harvested. An educator and horticulturalist have been hired, volunteer gardeners recruited, and arrangements made for harvested produce (much of it identical to the crops planted in this ground in 1912) to be supplied to schools and to food pantries serving the needy in the region.
The educational outreach is both curriculum-based, exported to school classrooms, and on-site in the form of interpretive brochures, fixed panels, and scheduled talks. The re-establishment of a working vegetable and fruit garden at the center of this much-visited National Historic Site has served not only to give a more complete experience of the property and a reinforcing message of the importance to us all of garden-to-table locally-grown, healthy nutrition; it also underscores an enduring Roosevelt legacy — promoting a more abundant life for all.
We, as Americans, have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to conserve a 90-plus-acre parcel of land in New York’s historic Hudson Valley that borders the home of one of our most visionary leaders: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the nation’s 32nd President.
Known as “the Morgan Property,” it was deeded by the estate of FDR’s late neighbor to Scenic Hudson Land Trust in 2014. Now, Scenic Hudson and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Hyde Park Foundation are collaborating to ensure the National Park Service can take ownership of the property and manage it in perpetuity as part of the Roosevelt National Historic Site.
While seed money has already been pledged, it will take a greater effort to achieve this goal for the public’s use and benefit.
The Morgan Property runs along the northern edge of the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, New York, from Route 9 on the east to the edge of the Hudson River on the west, with physical access to it via a bridge across the railroad right of way.
This spectacular parcel of land is in the direct sight line of every visitor to the FDR home – embracing not only extensive woodlands…. ponds and brooks, but also the field just to the right of the main drive heading into the park.
Parallel to the Foundation’s fundraising effort is the legislative work that the region’s Congressional representatives have successfully undertaken to authorize the Park Service to acquire the Morgan Property.
The FDR Historic Preservation Act was signed into law as a provision of the Natural Resources Management Act on March 12, 2019.
Anyone familiar with FDR’s love of the land and the history of this beautiful area, land which he knew intimately as he walked and rode between his home at Springwood and the Hudson River and his friends’ estates, knows how much he would champion the acquisition of these 90 acres to add them to the public domain, for hiking, ecological education, and the recreation that quiet enjoyment of ancient woods can impart to the harried lives of men and women of our own time – and for all time.
Please join the Franklin D. Roosevelt Hyde Park Foundation and Scenic Hudson in safeguarding this precious land. By joining this effort, you will help to advance the Roosevelts’ treasured legacy of “a more abundant life for all.”
The project will further the visitor’s silvicultural education, controlling the growth and quality of the forests, and celebrate FDR’s conservation legacy. The FDR Hyde Park Foundation is honored to closely work with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), renewing the former relationship between ESF and President Roosevelt’s forestry program at Hyde Park. For years, FDR worked closely with an ESF forester as his professional guide during the establishment of the original forest plantations.
The FDR Hyde Park Foundation Forestry Project will also undertake the historic preservation of FDR’s now overgrown forest plantations by removing invasive vegetation and beginning to restore the viewshed of the Hudson River from FDR’s home, Springwood.
This will be the first step in creating an authentic outdoor experience for visitors to this National Park Service (NPS) site so that they can see, and not just imagine, the landscape FDR shaped as a tree farmer committed to environmental conservation and growth — a vision he brought with him to the White House and that inspired his approach to fortifying the nation’s agricultural sector during the Depression and New Deal.
The land surrounding FDR’s home at Hyde Park nurtured his life-long interest in nature and the environment. FDR’s conservation ethic took root and flourished during a lifetime of exploring and caring for the place where he began to practice scientific forest management. He would plant half a million trees at Hyde Park during his lifetime, and the forestry plantations that FDR established at Hyde Park are a reflection of the conservation values he developed through his stewardship of the land.
The FDR Hyde Park Forestry Project will illustrate how FDR became the nation’s greatest conservationist president and his view that a forest should be grown, restored, and tended as a working asset to be kept productive. Through this project the Foundation will demonstrate how FDR’s tree plantations led to the New Deal forestry projects; its pioneering work in preventing and halting erosion through re-forestation; and in creating FDR’s view that natural resources should be protected for future generations to use. It will also initiate several small demonstration seedling plots in the vicinity of the surviving old plantations, and will serve as an important educational reminder of forestry’s role in addressing global warming and slowing the pace of climate change.
At the suggestion of the National Park Service, in 2017 the Foundation agreed to raise funds in support of materials needed for the operation of a Junior Ranger program at the Hyde Park sites over four successive visitor seasons. With support from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust,the program has been a great success.
Many National Park sites offer young visitors, typically between the ages of 7 and 12, the opportunity to join the NPS family as Junior Rangers. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, interact with a park ranger, and receive an official patch and certificate. At Hyde Park this involves a site-specific activity book that introduces in simple language the lives, achievements, and vision of the Roosevelts, as well as information motivating the youngsters to be stewards of the park environment and heritage resources in their home communities.
“Democratic informality” returned to the Hudson Valley as the Foundation hosted a tented fundraiser at Top Cottage in honor of the 79th anniversary of the famous Royal “hot dog” picnic at the site in 1939.
The buffet-style menu, prepared by local chef Charles Fells, Jr. of The Artist’s Palate in Poughkeepsie, took its cue from the original culinary choices made by FDR and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and included a salad whose main ingredients were picked from the newly restored two-acre home garden managed by the National Park Service on the Roosevelt property, with funding from the Foundation.
Some 70 guests attended the commemorative picnic, which began with light refreshments, vintage musical selections, and Ranger-guided tours of Top Cottage, the modest Dutch colonial home President Roosevelt designed as a retreat for himself, apart from his mother’s house at Springwood and Eleanor’s Stone Cottage at Val-Kill. Though FDR didn’t survive the war to live there, he hosted numerous events and dignitaries at Top Cottage while in the White House – the first being the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the end of their whirlwind US tour to affirm “the special relationship” between Britain and America.
The Foundation participated in the acquisition of critical land adjacent to Top Cottage by supporting acquisition expenses for the National Parks Foundation, which added the property to the NPS in the spring of 2019. This land provides an important screen for Top Cottage, protecting it from potential future development and further restoring Top Cottage’s footprint during FDR’s life.
We will be in touch soon.