DAlden  Jun.27.2024

Eleven NY NJ Trail stewards have been posted on the OCA at the entrance of the currently temporarily closed DEC owned Unique Area, rotating through in groups of three or four at a time during weekends and holidays since Memorial Day. Above is a photo of the 10 of the 11 crew members, taken in my backyard.

The Program Manager has agreed to have the stewards function as Aqueduct Trail Ambassadors, with the map posted at their table, selling maps as long as the customers can manage the on-line system our webmaster Katharine Gates designed, giving information to passersby and informing those rare visitors hoping to access the riverside that the Area is temporarily closed.

Every day they put out fresh water for dogs and stripe the parking area with sidewalk chalk and remove any trash they encounter. Tom Tarnowsky has already given them a lecture at the Croton Dam and Sara Kelsey is scheduled to give them a Weir tour on June 28; they will walk from Gerlach Park to the Weir so they will be in a good position to give trail walkers advice about how to navigate the trail.

You will note the empty chairs; this is because they have agreed to spend considerable time managing invasive species on the trail. So, while one or sometimes two stewards remain at the station, the others are out removing three invasive species that are currently getting ready to drop their seeds. They are working mainly on the hillsides, supplementing the work of the volunteers on I Love My Park Day, May 4 2024 who we did not want to send up the steep hills.

Here is Jaime, proudly surveying the area where she successfully cleared the hillside of invasive plants, making room for the native plants remaining there to flourish.

Here you can see three of them on the hillside, having cleared the lower section and working their way up to the top. Note the Christmas fern in the lower section of the photo just below the bag.

Each week the plants are placed in large landscape paper bags and taken to the trash cans in the Parking Area; I have arranged with the Cortlandt Sanitation Dept. to retrieve them on Mondays to bring to a landfill. The stewards weigh the bags and during May and June, they removed a total of 432 pounds.

Soon we will move to another section of the trail with a different set of invasive plants to manage, so the stewards will be learning to identify and manage a few at a time. They have each been provided with sketch books which they are using to document the plants they are studying and tell me that it has been a valuable exercise. Sometimes passers-by ask about what they are doing and showing them sketches has proven to be useful. I will begin to photograph their sketches when I can; they are very impressive.

The stewards have agreed to partner with me in September and October when 10 to 12 Ossining Youth Bureau members will be coming to the OCA to learn to manage invasive species on the trail; two days in the Cortlandt/Croton section and one day in Ossining, right by the Recreation Center where they are headquartered next to the Weir. It will be a good experience for the stewards (all recent college grads) to demonstrate and teach what they will have learned and I am sure they will be well received as tutors by the high school students. Joanna is working with the Youth Bureau to handle some of the logistics (transportation) and will also be present on the day Tom Tarnowsky will be giving the students a tour at the dam and most likely on the day when Sara Kelsey will be giving them a private Weir tour. They will also be given the opportunity to participate in Aquefest scheduled for October 5th in Dobbs Ferry. One of the Youth Bureau employees approached me on I Love My Park Day and requested that we provide the students with an opportunity to volunteer on the OCA, so Joanna Reisman and I have already had two meetings with the leadership to begin the planning process. In the July Friends Board meeting we will request approval for the funding that will be needed.