Thank you to the thirteen volunteers from the community who assisted in our annual cleanup of the Russell Preserve on the morning of May 21. Neighbors, PRLC Board members, and student volunteers had worked to clear invasive species and downed wood from the trails and surrounding areas of the Preserve all month, with an eye toward overall beautification and enhancement of biodiversity. Then, in a single Saturday, volunteers carried out and piled and the debris for chipping along the roadside. Special thanks go to neighbor Cristine M. for her coordination of the chipping and many hours spent removing invasive species at the entrance. Also, thank you to the Pound Ridge Highway Department for their assistance in our roadside cleanup.
Take a walk in Russell along this easy-grade, half-mile trail and enjoy views of pine, ponds, and shrubby wetland. You can’t miss our newly planted restoration area for pollinators or the bird-watching blind, recently constructed by a Pound Ridge Eagle Scout. The entrance to Russell is easily overlooked as you travel along High Ridge Road, but visitors are welcome to park in the side lane just south of the intersection with Upper Shad Road in order to access the Preserve across the street.
On Saturday, April 30, 2016, the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy, with the generous collaboration and assistance of the Westchester Land Trust, hosted an informative social gathering at the lovely home of PRLC Treasurer Pamela Corey and her husband Troy, in celebration of the Halle Ravine Preserve. The gathering was attended by more than 25 friends and neighbors of the Halle Ravine, who were treated to excellent hors d’oeuvres and wine and glorious spring weather. President Mike Kagan introduced Pamela Corey, who gave a brief history of Hiram Halle’s love for the Ravine and determination to preserve it forever by purchasing the land and donating it to the Nature Conservancy, who later turned it over to the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy. WLT Director of Stewardship Tate Bushell spoke of the work of WLT and their close relationship with PRLC. PRLC Land Steward, Krista Munger, gave a lively and educational talk about the important flora and ecology of the Ravine, complete with demonstrational materials. Ms. Munger identified, with samples, several invasive plants that are presently being targeted for control not only in our town generally but in the Ravine, and stressed the importance of each landowner doing the same on their own properties. WLT provided a native potted fern to guests to take home.
Ms. Munger also spoke of the projects that PRLC is undertaking in the Ravine this year and next, including the preparation of a certified management plan; introduction and protection of native plants in substitution for invasives as they are removed; the upgrading of bridges and steps along the trails; and the installation of additional tree identification signs for at least 15 species, to further Hiram Halle’s vision of the Ravine as a “living museum.” Longer term projects include the construction and reopening of the bridge and trailway over the dam; and the creation of expanded and safer parking along the Trinity Pass entrance to the Preserve.
Guests contributed generously to the funding needed for the various projects, which together with Land Trust Alliance grant funds will go a long way to making the planned projects a reality. PRLC is always seeking volunteers and contributions to further its goals, both in the Halle Ravine and in its additional 17 preserves throughout Town. For more information, go to www.PRLC.net.
Our Arbor Day Celebration and volunteer tree-planting event at Carolin’s Grove Preserve on Friday, April 29th was a great success. Thirteen volunteers attended and helped to plant our fenced reforestation area with a new forest to replace what was lost several years ago during Hurricane Sandy. Four of our volunteers came from local high schools. two from elementary school, and seven from the wider community of interested adults. It turns out, everyone loves Arbor Day! Teachers from the Pound Ridge Elementary School plan to bring their third grade students out next to expand planting areas and to water existing trees. A number of high school students have reached out to us, offering to volunteer with follow up and future projects.
PRLC arranged to purchase our saplings for low cost from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Saratoga Tree Nursery (a service for anyone who wishes to plant for conservation purposes). We also received a donation of saplings from the Bartlett Tree Experts, and grew a few more in our own nursery at the Armstrong Preserve. To kick off our Arbor Day event, Bartlett representative Brad Gurr demonstrated the preferred technique for planting a sapling tree. He then assisted volunteers in exceeding our goals for planting in this session. We were also aided by the donation of use of a water tanker by the Town of Pound Ridge Highway Department, and by the solid commitment of all our volunteers. Together, we planted more than 120 trees and shrubs in the main restoration area, comprising six native species: White pine, Red pine, Pitch pine, Red oak, Arrowwood, and Northern bayberry. Our summer interns will monitor the site and weed and provide water as necessary.
Our next step is to expand tree planting around the main fenced area, including unfenced areas and two smaller enclosures. We seek to maintain a conifer forest in the Grove while strengthening the diversity and long-term sustainability of this popular hiking site. Visitors should enjoy the tremendous growth expected in our restoration areas over the next few years, and are welcome to join our volunteer team to hasten renewal at this and other special places in Pound Ridge. The time to plant is now!
The morning of Saturday, April 2nd with rain, mist and some muddy slosh, a dozen neighbors and volunteers turned out in raincoats, work boots and gloves to help feed a chipper from piles which had been neatly stacked in late fall at the entrance. PRLC’s board and staff were grateful for the all-hands-on-deck attitude and help. Pound Ridge Highway Department also assisted in setting out traffic cones to provide a protected work area. Chipping of a solid amount of cut material including invasive woody bushes and small trees was necessary even though much brush had already been piled amongst the trees in the fall for the use of wildlife as habitat and cover from predators. The goal of all this activity and more to come is both aesthetic as well as functional. PRLC has been beautifying the entrance to many of our preserves which have trails, clearing invasive growth and replanting native species for the benefit of wildlife in deer exclosures- protected areas- and alongside the trail and parking areas. Along with this beautification, a plan is being put together to address kiosk signage making it more uniform throughout PRLC’s preserves with updated information.
A huge thank you to everyone who participated at Halle as much work was accomplished. New friends were made and everyone was satisfied at the now cleared entrance of the historic, Halle Ravine. Please come and check out the trails at Halle as we continue our work throughout the year. Let us know if you’re interested in helping out and we’ll get you on our notification list. Email email@example.com or call 914-205-3533 at the Armstrong Education Center.
On February 27th, PRLC held its first forum to connect interested citizen conservationists with local resources and organizations working in the environmental field. We were privileged to have as a guest speaker John Cronin who is the Senior Fellow in Environmental Affairs at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies at Pace University, where he is helping to create an interdisciplinary program of undergraduate and graduate studies in environmental innovation and policy. He shared with us his inspiring story of how he became the first Hudson Riverkeeper starting in 1983 and went on to pursue a 40 year career in environmental advocacy as a result of a formative volunteer experience with music legend Pete Seeger. PRLC’s Land Steward & Educator, Krista Munger, and Geoff Griffiths, a visiting graduate student from the SUNY School on Environmental Science and Forestry, presented various local and national initiatives which use volunteer data to inform decision-making on conservation priorities. Geoff is working to develop the New York Wildflower Monitoring Project on the iNaturalist web platform.
We were pleased to see the interest generated by this event and look forward to working with local conservationists interested in citizen science to support both our work and the work of other inspiring, local organizations. To obtain the resource list prepared for this event, email Krista at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 914-205-3533 at PRLC’s Armstrong Education Center’s Office.
On January 20th, the PRLC membership and board met at the Pound Ridge Library to elect returning and new board members and new board officers for 2016. Newly elected to the board is Pamela Corey, a 9-year resident of Pound Ridge and avid hiker. She will begin a 3- year term although she has been active with the organization over the past year in a volunteer capacity. Elyse Arnow was re-appointed for another 3-year board term. New officers were elected for 2016 with Mike Kagan as newly installed President, Pamela Corey as Treasurer, Deborah Sherman as Vice President and Elyse Arnow as Secretary. Mike has been on the board for five years, Treasurer for the past three and active on the organization’s Preserve Management and Development Committees. He hails formerly of Winterbottom Lane and now of Old Stone Hill Road. We welcome his talents and vision and applaud his dedication.
The membership heard a wide-ranging program update from PRLC staff Krista Munger highlighting the summer intern and volunteer programs which accumulated over 950 volunteer hours for 2015 and another 450 hours of paid student internship time working on stewardship and field projects at PRLC’s preserves. Also highlighted was the work of 4 Eagle Scouts including a new kiosk at the Richards Preserve off Honey Hollow Rd. and new bridge connecting Armstrong trails to DEC reservoir views. Krista noted she worked with over 140 non-board volunteers focusing predominantly on invasives control and management throughout select preserves. A total of 10 workshops were held over the 12 month period as well as 6 guided, themed hikes. The new Armstrong self-guided trail, its outdoor classroom habitats, vernal pool walkway construction and signage were focuses of this year’s grant-supported educational outreach.
This month, visitors to the vernal pool outdoor classroom at the Armstrong Preserve and Education Center, were excited to witness newly planted native shrubs and young trees, many protected by several fenced exclosures, along with beginning design, layout and construction of a viewing walkway through this vibrant habitat. Oversight by PR Wetlands Commission and Building Dept. called for hand digging of concrete peer base areas and limited disturbance. Walkway has been funded by a grant from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program as part of a series of enhancements to Armstrong Preserve’s outdoor, educational classrooms. A self-guided exploration loop trail includes educational signage with QR codes to additional information on PRLC’s website. Completion is scheduled for later this year.
Vernal pools, also called ephemeral pools, (‘vernal’ means relating to spring) are temporary, shallow ponds of water that provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland usually devoid of fish, which permits the safe hatching and development of amphibian and insect species. Most pools are dry for at least part of the year, and fill with winter rains or snow melt. The vernal pool at Armstrong remains at least partially filled with water over the wetter months but dries up generally at the start of summer. During the wetter months and especially early spring, the Armstrong vernal pool is filled with life– species of frogs and toads, salamanders which use vernal pools for reproduction. Other inhabitants include Daphnia and fairy shrimp, the latter often used as an indicator species to decisively identify a vernal pool. Another indicator species in our NE region includes the wood frog.
Early morning on Saturday, August 1st, a group of volunteers, PRLC staff and board members installed one hundred and forty feet of 3 board-wide bog bridge over a large area of wetlands and low-lying woodlands, adjacent to the 5-acre Clark meadow. Teams of two carried slabbed locust and cedar cross- ties locally culled from downed red cedar in PRLC preserves. Hikers will now enjoy dry access to this large area of wetlands. Of course, there is more to install next year… as we extend the boardwalk further into the wetlands for best habitat protection as well as into the adjacent wet meadow whose spring and summer flora need protection from our tromping feet.
Butterflies, nesting turtles, and grassland birds like the Northern harrier are dependent upon large clearings. Other birds such as swallows, blue birds and kestrels are drawn to a meadow’s expansive openness, which they use as feeding and nesting grounds. Thickets and shrubs at the meadow’s edge are home to birds such as the common yellow throat, eastern towhee and grey catbird. Meadows are usually bathed in full sunlight, which favors the growth of wildflowers, ferns, grasses, sedges, and rushes, which attract butterflies, moths, dragonflies, bees, flies and a whole host of other insects. Many other species benefit from the productivity of insects and pollen in meadows and include them in their wider territory.
Two new benches have been installed for viewing wildlife and flora at the Armstrong Meadow at the 43-acre Armstrong Preserve. Volunteers guided an 18 ft long locust trunk which had previously been milled into two halves toward the meadow from the spot where it had fallen across the Armstrong trail. Half was used by an eagle scout project this summer for a foot bridge on the preserve while the other half became PRLC’s meadow ‘yin & yang’ benches. Why this name, you’ll need to see them for yourself!
During the week of July 13th, several days were spent by PRLC’s student volunteers and college interns reopening the white trail at Carolins Grove after severe storm damage made it impassable with several large, toppled hemlocks crisscrossing the trail and spanning an entire hillside. Using this trail permits hikers a beautiful, short and easy loop through the Grove and back to parking and the kiosk. In addition, staff, interns and volunteers have widened all the trails throughout the preserve and adjoining trail system to permit safe passage through patches of grown-in briars. Along the trail, hikers will notice several new deer exclosures reinstalled after last winter’s work funded by the Winfield Foundation, family of the original Carolin. Extensive clearing of toppled and interlocking hemlocks were cleared and timbered creating new planting areas for a more diverse, and therefore, healthy woodland. Volunteers and interns have planted additional saplings in the restoration areas: 100 white pines, eastern red cedar, and arrowwood viburnum, with more to come. While hiking, take a peek into the fenced areas to see other young seedlings taking hold, like tulip and black cherry along with native species of raspberry. They should all grow well in the available sunlight and will add diversity to this mostly pine forest.
The afternoon of July 15th, five volunteers joined PRLC’s Land Steward, Krista Munger, in undertaking a mass pulling of the invasive mile-a-minute weed at the vernal pool at the Armstrong Preserve. Volunteers ranged from a rising junior at Fox Lane High School, Luke Lyons, to Gail Jankus, Pound Ridge Conservation Board Chair. Also lending a hand was Carrie Sears from the Pound Ridge Invasive Project and a volunteer from Mile-a Minute Hudson Valley. While there are no strict requirements for volunteering on PRLC projects, volunteers who participated showed a marked affinity for nature, excitedly chattering about environmental topics and eager to demonstrate their knowledge of regional plant and animal species.
Weeding efforts focused on the Armstrong’s vernal pool, one of three ‘outdoor classrooms’ used for workshops and hands-on learning. Armstrong’s vernal pool is a highly functioning wetland ecosystem teeming with biodiversity. Volunteers set out with gloves and garbage bags as they made their way along the trail. The invasive is a thorny vine that not only hurts when picked without caution, but more importantly, has proven to be a competitively dominant invasive species that suffocates and crowds out other plant life. If pulled and then thrown on the ground, the vine is still able to regenerate. It is clear that mile-a-minute weed threatens the delicate vernal pool ecosystem as it tries to take root and displace native plants that are part of the pool’s complex web of species and interactions which keep the fragile ecosystem in balance.
Making their way through the tall, thick grasses, by early afternoon, the weed had been eradicated and the vernal pool no longer sported sprawling clusters of the invasive. PRLC relies on the dedicated help of volunteers to implement preserve management plans and their stated requirements, such as the removal of invasive or harmful species. Volunteer work sessions are a great way to not only be outside and actively protect important, local, natural habitats, but also to participate in educational opportunities for understanding the importance of land stewardship, preservation, and what human intervention is needed to manage sustainable habitats.