by Stefanie Sears
Rockefeller State Park Preserve, a 1,600- acre ever-growing haven of open space, provides numerous outdoor opportunities for hiking, biking, equestrian activities and carriage rides. The Preserve’s current success is thanks to Jessika Creedon, the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s Administrative Director. She has been in this role for a year now and works closely with the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s President Clare Pierson and the volunteer Board of Directors.
“I am the only person manning day-to-day operations and administrative details,” said Creedon. “And, I have truly enjoyed working within my community while getting to know everyone. What I have been most surprised by is how much I enjoy the trail meetings and board meetings, learning about the complexities of managing and maintaining the preserve. The carriage roads we enjoy so much require proper drainage, the fields need mowing and the leaves blown, in addition to the year-round tree and vegetation care – so much is happening behind the scenes to keep it safe and enjoyable for everyone. While we all know this on some level, understanding the budget, time limitations, and just how hard everyone is working puts it all in perspective.”
The Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s goal is to support educational programs and exhibits at the visitors’ center, provide for habitat restoration projects and preserve the carriage roads’ unique trail system. Additionally, discovering the world of horses through the equestrian Amble and Gamble has been “an exciting new frontier” for Creedon. She is also looking forward to the Preserve’s website’s makeover.
“I envision the website as being a resource that Preserve visitors can turn to not only for information, but for a deeper understanding of the Preserve and how the Friends support shapes its care,” she explained.
But, Creedon’s main personal aim is planning the races with race director Laureen Fitzgerald. “I look forward to growing the races and Amble & Gamble,” Creedon said. “They are such wonderful community events and all proceeds go directly toward carriage road maintenance. Our annual Rockwood Ramble 10k and Rocky’s 5k have been a tremendous amount of fun.”
Creedon is a runner herself. In fact, her running activity is what introduced her to the Preserve. Originally from Brooklyn, in 2009 she and her husband, Rire Nakpodia, were training for the 2010 New York City Marathon and longed for scenery other than Prospect Park to log their miles. Inspired by an article about the Old Croton Aqueduct, they decided to take a day trip to visit the Old Croton Aqueduct and Rockwood Hall, an early favorite spot of theirs. They did a long run and had lunch in the village. From that point on, Creedon and her husband would continue to venture back on the weekends to repeat the joy of that day. Eventually, with twin toddlers, Remi and Tega, in tow, they decided to pursue finding a home outside of the city in 2015. While searching, they took into account proximity to the Preserve, so Sleepy Hollow was their first choice.
“The house may be a fixer upper, but the location is perfect. My runs began to cover more and more miles, as I learned to link trails and only occasionally refer to the map at unknown intersections. I was able to ditch the headphones that had accompanied every run for over six years and instead listen to the water in the brooks, the birds chirping and my own footsteps,” Creedon said of the Preserve in the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s Fall 2016 issue of the Preserve Observer newsletter.
However, throughout her first year as a Sleepy Hollow resident, Creedon was still commuting to work as an in-house photographer and design studio manager for Zenith Products in New York City, where she had been employed for about two years. But she hoped for a job opening nearby, was soon in luck.
“When I learned that the Friends board was hiring, it felt like a perfect fit. A position so perfectly suited to my passion for the Preserve, I couldn’t respond quickly enough. I joined the Friends in March 2016,” she said. “Having just passed the one-year mark, I look forward to year two. Now that I have seen each event first hand, I can move forward with further supporting and advocating for the Preserve.”
Creedon majored in Architecture at Syracuse University, but found her calling with photography. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City and worked as a studio manager and first assistant to a still life photographer and then started working as a studio manager and assistant for architectural photographer Michael Moran for 10 years, “which was a wonderful way of marrying my two interests,” said Creedon.
“I realized my love for photography when I developed my very first roll of black and white film in my college dark room – photographs I took while sailing in Martha’s Vineyard. Everything is digital now, but I’ll be forever grateful to have learned the old-fashioned way in a dark room,” she said.
Creedon still continues to photograph and contributes her management skills to her current position. She encourages everyone to visit the Preserve at least once, particularly during a specific time of day – at dawn.
“It feels almost magical as the sun comes up and the fog is still hanging low,” she said.