caption: Group Photo by Karena Gray
For the full photo album, click HERE
On May 6 The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct continued the quest to rid the trail of invasive plants impeding views, threatening historic stone walls and choking out the valuable native plants and trees that support local wildlife. Impossibly ambitious? Maybe. But worth making strategic choices and chipping away? 88 volunteers, community co-sponsors and corporate donors answered with their hands, feet, time and resources to say a resounding YES!
The Friends congratulate and thank all those who worked together to make the 6th annual I Love My Park Day on the Old Croton Aqueduct trail another impressive, productive and enjoyable collaborative event. Although many of the volunteers came from around the neighborhood, some came from as far away as Long Island and Washington DC to help improve this beautiful historic trail! They worked on the two mile stretch from the Croton Dam to the intersection with Quaker Bridge Road in Ossining.
The volunteers started by learning how to identify the invasive plants and then set out to remove them with enthusiasm and hard work. Three environmental organizations co-sponsored the event and teamed up to provide leadership to the volunteers. Linda Rohleder, Director of Land Stewardship, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference joined with Leigh Draper, Land Steward from Teatown and Bob DelTorto from the Bronx River Parkway Reservation Conservancy to provide direction to the volunteers along with our newest sponsor, Thomas Lewis from Trillium Invasive Species Management Inc. They led the volunteers in removing the prickly Japanese barberry, wine berry and multi-flora rose bushes which provide the ideal environments for ticks by taking over entire sections, leaving little room for native plants. The volunteers also ripped out winter creeper, Japanese maple, privet, oriental bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle and euonymus bushes, including a number growing on top of stone walls, threatening their integrity.
Mary Florin-McBride led an energetic and effective garlic mustard crew for the sixth year in a row. This contingent of 20 plus volunteers cleared garlic mustard from the trail edges and hillsides and filled countless garbage bags with this invasive plant that can contaminate entire forests. It was inspiring to see parents and children working side by side in this group, toiling together throughout the day
Certified arborist Guy Pardee led a vine squad to carry on the work that Guy has been doing on his own on the trail close to the Croton Dam. The group worked to save dogwoods as well as apple, wild cherry, red and sugar maple, oak and ash trees. They worked on a steep barberry infested slope cutting vines and removing multi-flora rose and winged euonymus understory. At the end of the day the falls at the Croton Dam could be seen from the trail through a cover of flowering dogwood.
Returning corporate sponsor, SavATree, donated heavy equipment, a certified arborist, Stacey Parthemore and a two person crew. Stacey with her crew took down and chipped dead Ailanthus trees, and also cut out many invasive bushes along 60 feet on both sides of the trail close to the ventilator tower.
George Cabrera, local stone mason and proprietor of J&C Masonry, Inc. returned for the second year with his helper and son to lead a stone wall repair and restoration effort. They were so determined to finish repairing the stone retaining wall that they skipped the lunch break to complete 93 running feet of the wall. It is close to the one of the intersections with Quaker Bridge Road; we encourage you to take a walk to see the results.
Rushing to keep ahead of the stone wall crew, Daria Gregg, citizen scientist at the New York Botanical Garden & Wildflower Island guide at Teatown, along with her helpers, rescued native plants growing on top of the wall to be replanted a couple of days afterward.
A pop up crew of trash baggers cleared the trail of all visible trash and also traversed the steep trail down to the Croton River to leave that area in pristine condition as well.
The volunteers, some new and some returning year after year, worked hard and enjoyed the camaraderie of their teams. State Parks crew members Tony Failla, Mike Cacace and Thomas Kearney supported the efforts; Tony was ubiquitous on his blue tractor, mulching all of the invasive bushes and vines left trailside and transporting the stones needed for the stone wall repair and the garlic mustard stuffed plastic bags.
Returning corporate sponsor, Avalon Ossining, located along the trail in Ossining,generously donated funds needed to provide materials, water and much needed supplies for the volunteers. Mrs. Greens in Briarcliff contributed healthy delicious fruit and snacks. A lunch time prize drawing was held, sponsored by Feed the Birds and Run On Hudson Valley. Lucky winners went home with gift certificates and bird feeders. The Black Cow Coffee Company, as they have done every year, provided the morning coffee that inspired us!
The Town of Cortlandt provided parking dispensation for the volunteers. Dana Levenberg, Supervisor from the Town of Ossining came in the morning to cheer us on and we were presented with a NY State Senate Proclamation by a representative from Senator Terrance Murphy’s office. Several members of the board of the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct participated and also contributed many photographs as did the State Parks Historic Site Manager Steven Oakes.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in partnership with Parks and Trails New York initiated the I Love My Parks Day events that took place throughout NY State this year. This was the sixth time the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct hosted and organized this annual event. The weather cooperated and in terms of results, it was the best ever. The substantial achievements were the result of the planning and collaboration between the many community organizations, municipalities and sponsors which worked together to enhance the ecological health of the trail and preserve its natural and historic beauty. We invite local residents to walk the trail and see what was accomplished. Walking south of the Croton Dam you will see healthy trees freed up from a cover of invasive vines. Marvel at the historic stone walls now visible and try to identify those that have been repaired and restored. Enjoy hillsides dotted by Christmas ferns and spice bushes, thriving now that they are no longer being choked out by invasive vines, plants and bushes. If you are interested in learning more about invasive species and how to manage them, we invite you to log onto www.lhprism.org, the website of the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, an organization to which those providing leadership for this event belong. And do consider joining the next big invasive plant removal effort on the Old Croton Aqueduct under the leadership of the NY-NJ Trail Conference’s Invasive Strike Force Conservation Crew to be joined by the New York State Student Conservation Association’s Excelsior Corps on July 8th, 2016. To register, and for further information go to https://www.nynjtc.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=6002.