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Westchester Volunteer Revitalizes Effort to Fund County Parks

Judy Matson understands that tax dollars sometimes skip over funding valuable environmental assets. That's why this Mt. Kisco volunteer helped gather locals from throughout Westchester almost a decade ago to revitalize a non-profit organization to help support, preserve and promote the county's 40 parks.

Friends of Westchester County Parks (FWCP), launched in 1977, secures and administers private funds to aid the Westchester County Department of Parks.

A couple of those spaces include Croton's Croton Point Park and Glen Island Park in New Rochelle. It has also recently created the Bronx River Walking Tour, which runs through Bronxville, Scarsdale, Hartsdale and White Plains.

After FWCP became largely inactive throughout the 1990's, Matson and her team of board members helped revitalize it back in 2002 by working tirelessly to raise cash for new equipment, training professional park staff and other activities to benefit the community.

“[The other members and I] sat together and developed a mission to support the parks in any way we could—and as time went on we realized we needed to find a way to raise money and bring attention to programs,” Matson said.

FWCP has made its mark by facilitating many programs throughout Westchester. Camp Morty, a camp for underprivileged local kids at Sal J. Prezioso Mountain Lakes Park in North Salem and Valhalla's Kensico Music Festival are just a couple of examples.

Why does she work so hard to maintain the county's environment? For one, the longtime volunteer believes it’s a citizen’s duty.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that we have beautiful parks for generations to come,” she said. Matson has also been a longtime board member of the Westchester Arts Council (now known as Artswestchester ) and the Hudson River Museum.

Since 2002, the FWCP has lined up corporate helpers who contribute to the park system’s well-being. Hudson Valley Bank and Con Edison are among those who have lent their services through the years.

Matson was a longtime employee of Fujifilm USA, which helped the Friends land them as environmental partners. Fujifilm has made donations to plant cherry trees at Kensico Dam, for instance, and regularly sends staff to the parks for community service days.

So why should you join the Friends of Westchester County Parks?

“Everyone needs a friend,” Matson says.

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