DAlden  Feb.27.2024

A comprehensive report on trail stewardship for 2023

In 2023 the focus shifted sigificantly; removal of invasive species was targeted to specific sections of the trail to encourage the emergence of native species and to make space for the restoration planting scheduled for the fall; it took place September 22nd. Sections of the trail are now lush with native plants and whole swaths are free of those prickly bushes that have plagued trail walkers and served as a breeding ground for ticks.

The work spanned many months, from April through October and involved several different organizations as well as many volunteers. The work was anchored by the Parks & Trails NY which sponsored the 12th annual I Love My Park Day (ILMPD) that took place on May 6th.

Preparation began with the State Parks

The amount of collaboration and preparation for ILMPD on the part of the State Parks Staff went a long way toward the success of this event. In late April the crew came with a truck and chipper. They cleared the trail of the debris that had accumulated from past storms and tree cutting along the trail:

Photo Credit: Diane Alden

Photo Credit: Diane Alden

The following day, the ILMPD crew leaders came to walk the trail to make detailed plans about where on the trail they wanted to focus and exactly what they wanted to accomplish in those locations. Here they are.

Photo Credit: Diane Alden

We needed all of them to keep us organized and to provide expert guidance to the 90 volunteers who participated in ILMPD. During the walk-about they assessed which sections of the trail would most benefit from intervention and then divided up the sections and the work between them.

Another pre-event task was to rescue a number of rare native plants growing on the stone wall to be restored, so I worked with some helpers to dig up them up and replant them on the stone wall that had been restored in 2022.

Photo Credit: Diane Alden

So, we were ready when the day came at the Croton on Hudson location (physically located in the Town of Cortlandt)

Here is our group photo May 6, ILMPD participants

Photo Credit: Lynn Salmon

We staged a second group photo to include the late arrivals

Photo Credit: Chris Mohoney

Great support from our VIPs, local and state officials, Dana Levenberg, NY State Assemblywoman, Elizabeth Feldman, Ossining Town Supervisor, James Creighton, Deputy Supervisor, Town of Cortlandt, David Zeigler, District Office Assistant of NYS Senator Peter Harckham. They all spoke during the opening ceremonies and then I told the volunteers that they were the real VIPS.

We were pleased to welcome Liz Feldman since this was her first year at ILMPD. She is shown here with the event organizer, Diane Alden who has been hosting ILMPD events in this location since 2012, the inaugural year.

And then we got to work.

Painting the fence

The volunteers painted a 74-foot-long post and rail fence under the guidance of our all-around handyman Pablo.

Photo Credit: Lynn Salmon

Attacking the invasive and ubiquitous Garlic Mustard: the Garlic Mustardteers

Two groups of families with children enthusiastically filled 40 bags of this invasive plant, weighing a total of 744 pounds. (We used luggage weighers to weigh each bag.) Since we promoted this location as a family friendly event; 17 of the 90 volunteers who participated in I Love My Park Day 2024 were children, with parents in tow.

One group headed out to the North, led by Brenda Timm, Realtor, one of our event sponsors, and her children.

We were thrilled that our long time participant and newly elected NY State Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg came to participate and to cheer us on.

Photo credit: James Creighton

We were also grateful that that our long time participant and Cortlandt Deputy Town Supervisor James Creighton lent his hands, his enthusiasm, and his photography skills to the event.

Photo credit: Tom Tarnowsky

Jamie Friedman headed South with her children and students, teachers and friends from one of her daughter’s second grade classroom, to form the second cadre of Garlic Mustardteers.

Photo credit: Lynn Salmon

Photo credit: Diane Alden

The Garlic Mustardteers experienced the satisfaction of completely clearing vast areas from hillsides bordering the trail and at the base of a stone wall. Look how joyful both groups of kids looked as they accomplished their mission!

Preserving native plants

In three sections featuring many native plants, the volunteers carefully removed selected invasive plants in order to protect the native ones growing in these areas; this was done with almost surgical precision under the guidance of the crew leaders.

Mathew McDowell, a horticulturist, naturalist, and curator for Wildflower Island at Teatown Lake Reservation mentored one group preserving a stand of Turtle head plants, along with Skunk cabbage, a very special native species.

Photo credit: Tom Tarnowsky

Photo credit: Tom Tarnowsky

Bob DelTorto, President of the Bronx River Parkway Reservation Conservancy, our expert vine cutter who has been with us from the very beginning of our I Love My Park Days, came an extra day ahead of time to familiarize himself with the specific native and invasive plants in his assigned section. Just so he could help the volunteers very carefully target and remove invasive plants threatening the survival of the native species!

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

Linda Rohleder, now the President of Wild Woods Restoration Project, who has been our mentor for many years, worked with other volunteers in the secret grotto to preserve native plants:

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

Removing invasive plants, vines, and bushes from four heavily invested sections

Under the leadership of four experienced crew leaders, three from the NY NJ Trail Conference Invasive Strike Force, in addition to our newest crew leader, arborist and horticulturalist, Peter Strom from Strom Hort, LLC, the volunteers removed many stands of invasive plants, vines and bushes threatening native plants. We termed some of them Barberrians.

Zachary Keenan, crew leader of the NY NJ Trail Conference’s Invasive Strike Force Crew, and Ryan McClean, who heads up that program as the Terrestrial Invasive Species Project Manager, led the charge to dig up the prickly Barberry bushes that harbor ticks!

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

The seven crew leaders from the above sections kept careful track of the numbers of each species of plants removed; collectively they removed 834 individual plants in addition to 5 bags of lesser celandine weighing a total of 125 pounds and 4 bags of garlic mustard weighing 60 pounds.


A professional arborist from SavATree, Brad Gurr, along with a crew of two and their equipment razed 192 linear feet of a bramble hedge comprised of several species of invasive bushes on both the East and West side of the trail, carefully avoiding stands of native blooming wild geraniums.

Photo credit: Lynn Salmon

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

Trillium Invasive Species Management

Trillium Invasive Species Management, Inc., under the leadership of Thomas Lewis, provided a crew of 4 and managed 223 linear feet of invasive bushes and plants on the West side of the trail by cutting them and then applying herbicide using the cut-stump method, under a permit from State Parks. This method minimizes the likelihood that those plants will resprout.

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

Photo credit: Chris Mahoney

Impromptu lunch time art project:

An enthusiastic group of youngsters spontaneously created their own art project from vines that had been removed and from branches along the trail, thus providing a whimsical yet effective barrier, unbeknownst to the youngsters who created it, to a dangerous embankment.

Photo credit: Diane Alden

Restoring an Historic stone wall

Volunteers, under the guidance of a professional Stone Mason, George Cabrera from J & C Masonry and Landscaping, Inc. completed the restoration of 30 feet of the wall. George delivered the stones needed on the Friday before and brought two additional helpers to work with the volunteers.

Photo credit: Lynn Salmon

The volunteers worked diligently and enthusiastically to break down the crumbling stones, cut them to size and then learned how to carefully place them to create the restoration with a level top.

Photo credit: Tom Tarnowsky

Photo credit: Tom Tarnowsky

Prize drawing

This is a tradition; a free prize drawing raffle at lunch time. The prize drawing was sponsored by Feed the Birds and Robbins Pharmacy.

Photo credit: Tom Tarnowsky

Photo credit: Lynn Salmon

Ossining ILMPD

Daria Gregg, hosted a separate ILMPD event, a short walk south in Ossining. Daria is an Ossining resident and Citizen scientist who has adopted a section of the OCA in Ossining for invasive plant management and has established pollinator friendly meadow there. 15 volunteers came to work with Daria, many of whom were returning volunteers from previous years.

They removed 214 invasive plants, vines and bushes in addition to 8 large bags of garlic mustard. They planted 101 ecotype native plants to replace them in 4 sections, including in an existing meadow created in previous years.

Perks for volunteers were also provided at this site: t-shirts, a free prize drawing raffle, snacks and water. Our peripatetic Dana Levenberg came to encourage them, and took this selfie with a few of the volunteers. (Daria is on the right; Dana on the left.)

Photo credit: Dana Levenberg

Credit where credit is due:

Photography: there were so many interesting and informative photos that it was very difficult to select those to include here. Thanks to our official photographers Tom Tarnowsky, Chris Mahoney and Lynn Salmon, who also quickly posted some of her gems on Facebook.

Registrars: Gratitude to our three registrars: Nina Sukumar, Sara Kelsey, Friends of the OCA advisory Board Member. and Jeri Froelich who helped set up, served as the welcoming committee, registered the walk-ins, checked in those already registered, distributed the t-shirts, provided the name tags and the raffle tickets, coordinated the communications during the day, served the lunch time garlic hummus and then helped pack up at the end of the day.

State parks: Special commendations to the State Parks personnel who helped prepare the site ahead of time, chipping, mowing, arranging for our commodious facilities, opening the gate for the delivery of stones for the wall, helping to set up and break down, participating with the volunteers during the day and picking up all those bags of garlic mustard for disposal. Steve Oakes the OCA Historic Site Manager, Kevin Franklin, Rob Lee, Dawn DeLucci, and Robert Suda, hats off to you.

Perks for volunteers: t-shirts were provided by Parks & Trails NY and Baked by Susan gave us a wonderful, delicious breakfast goodies to start the day. At lunch time we broke out the bananas and granola bars donated by Greens Natural Foods, along with veggies, chips and hummus (specially flavored with Garlic Mustard, as is traditional for us). UPS Croton helped out with some of the printing and Croton Running Company donated some swag for the prize drawing.

Additional sponsors provided funds to run this show: Hudson View Auto and Terraces on Hudson. Riverkeeper Sweep helped with publicity to recruit volunteers.

Four board members of the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct participated.

Fall Invasive plant management

But that is only the beginning of our ongoing saga to tend the trail in the northern section of the OCA in 2023.

During the fall, the NY-NJ Trail Conference’s Trail Stewards who had been posted on the OCA during the spring, summer and fall weekends to educate possible visitors to the temporarily closed DEC owned Unique Area also served as Aqueduct Trail Ambassadors and as additional invasive plant managers, as time permitted. In the fall, during several weekdays they worked with volunteers in targeted sections of the OCA. Here are some of them working with volunteers to clear the smothering Stiltgrass, thus permitting the White Wood Asters and Hay Scented Ferns growing in the area to flourish.

Photo credit: Teresa Shen

Here they are at the end of another day, having carefully removed a variety of invasive plants along a stone wall to encourage the many native plants we found there to thrive.

The piles of invasive plants removed are spead in heaps along the trail waiting for the State Parks to clear them away or shred them with their mulching mower. One can see the daylighted stone wall and the many native ferns that are standing out amidst the native plants.

Photo credit: Diane Alden

Proud stewards posed along the stone wall for this photo.

Photo credit: Diane Alden

Here they are working to remove Stiltgrass from the Turtle Head patch we have been tending for years. Robert Suda from State Parks who was doing a tree assessment showed up and cheered them along.

Photo credit: Diane Alden

In late September Crew Leader, Ryan McClean worked with some volunteers we had recruited to dig up many red fruited Barberry bushes. I turned up to insist that the berries be bagged prior to disposal to prevent re-seeding. Here I am, very pleased with the amazing amount of work done on this last day for the season of invasive removal work. See all the bushes lying along the edge of the trail that will no longer provide a safe harbor for the disease carrying ticks!

Restoration planting

But that is not all; on September 22nd, Linda Rohleder, President of Wild Woods Restoration Project, arrived with her crew of 16 volunteers and planted 600 eco-type native species in areas where we had removed invasive plants. Here is one section that was quite barren that we expect will be very different next Spring when the plants start growing, encouraged by the torrential rain that fell in the next few days.

Some of those 600 plants were planted in a section where we have been carefully tending a New York Aster patch for a number of years. This section of thriving wildflowers had been blocked off at the edge of the trail to prevent mowing and then encouraged to grow by volunteers and Trail Stewards who have been delicately removing the Stiltgrass and other invasive plants threatening to engulf them. The new plants were installed in back of the Aster patch and some in-between the asters to fill in spaces where invasive plants had been removed. Yellow goldenrod plants are predicted to attract even more pollinators than the purple Asters can do on their own. A wonderful synergistic collaboration.


Vine management: Winter work

Winter is the ideal time to manage vines on the trail with minimal exposure to Poison Ivy and ticks. Invasive vines strangle trees and shade their ability to photosynthesize, eventually causing the trees to die. Not only is this detrimental to the ecosystem of the trail, it also presents a hazard to those who enjoy traversing it. This year the Friends supported engaging a professional arborist Peter Strӧm who worked with our newest volunteer to clear a section of the trail of vines engulfing trees and bushes.

Photo credit: Diane Alden

We look forward to May 4 I Love My Park Day 2024. Save the date and continue the amazing transformation of this part of the Trail.

Work is planned during the spring to do additional Garlic Mustard removal, in the fall to manage Stiltgrass and then we are planning a volunteer event to target Barberry bushes under the leadership of the NY NJ Trail Conference’s Invasive Strike Force, assuming our application is approved. Volunteers are encouraged to be involved in all of these initiatives; we will keep you informed. We might even qualify for another round of restoration planting!