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Group Hopes to Restore Ward Pound Ridge Fire Tower

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – The Friends of Trailside Museum and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is reaching for the sky with its next project

The group hopes to restore an historic 60-foot fire tower at the preserve, that was erected in 1926 and torn down in early 1970s. It will be called “The Beacon.” The Ward Pound Ridge Reservation stretches between Lewisboro and Pound Ridge.

We have at our disposal the exact same tower that was removed from its home on the highest point in the park at 700 feet above sea-level,” said Tom Cohn, a Friends of Trailside Museum board member. “Its 360-degree view runs from the Long Island Sound, past New York City, to the west to the Hudson. It’s just amazing.”

The County Parks operated the tower until the 1930s and then the NYS Conservation Department operated it through 1970. The tower was manned by forest fire observers for the DEC and county parks for most of the century

“There is a great deal of historical information available on [the tower] and the role it played in the lives of Westchester residents for most of the last century,” Cohn said.

Cohn said the tower was taken down without the official sanction of the county and that it was the intent of his group to restore it to its rightful place on the highest point of the park. He said the group has visited the exact site where the 60-foot tower once stood on Cross River Mountain.

“We were able to locate the USGS (United States Geological Survey) marker that further underscores this exact spot as one of importance,” he said.

The Friends of Trailside believe the additional traffic the restored tower will bring to the park would generate substantial revenues for the preserve as well the organization.

Cohn said the restoration of the tower, which used to be part of a statewide system of civil services, would create a tri-state destination – a beacon. It would be the only fire tower in Westchester with “amazing views.”

The Friends of Trail estimate the restoration cost at $140,000. Cohn said the group was hoping for a great deal for support from the county and the public and was intent on amassing a war chest with enough assets to cover as much of the operation costs as possible.“These endangered structures have been restored throughout the country and are promoted by organizations like the Forest Fire Lookout Association,” Cohn said. “There are presently 36 fire tower restoration projects in New York State alone.”

The Friends of Trailside Museum plans to work with a company that is in the business of saving, reclaiming, restoring, and erecting fire towers.

“We think this historic landmark will create a beacon for the community and tri-state area to support and rally around, and show love for the reservation, its history, and all it continues to offer to the community with its programs,” Cohn said. “This is also an obvious opportunity to gain public awareness and involvement. That can be leveraged into a broader base for the Friends and more cash on hand for other projects.”

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