Floating Treatment Wetlands at Rockland Lake State Park

You may have noticed something new in the water at Rockland Lake State Park.  These are floating treatment wetlands!  Read our post below to find out more about these water treatment platforms.

Why are they here? 
In recent years, harmful algal blooms have become common in Rockland Lake. These algae blooms are largely caused by an unhealthy increase in nutrients such as phosphorous in the lake.  The nutrients come from many sources nearby, including excess lawn/garden fertilizers that wash into storm ditches after a rainfall, then drain into Rockland Lake.  One culvert (inlet) with consistently high nutrient levels is located near Parking Field 5 and it was chosen as the location for a new floating treatment wetland.  The goal of adding a floating wetland to the lake is to reduce the amount of nutrients – and by extension, harmful algal blooms – in the lake.

What are they?
Floating treatment wetlands (a.k.a. floating wetlands/islands) help to bring the benefits of natural wetlands to polluted water. They filter water to improve water quality and they provide important habitat for a variety of plants and animals. Floating wetlands can come in different shapes and sizes, but in general, wetland plants are supported atop a buoyant platform, with roots exposed in the lake water below.

What do they do?
Floating treatment wetlands help to create the right balance of submerged and non-submerged wetland habitat based on each individual site’s needs. As the plants grow, they use-up excess nutrients in the water. In addition, communities of beneficial bacteria form a film around the roots, further helping to filter nutrients and pollutants. Higher/lower elevations create areas with varying oxygen levels, promoting these different biological filtering methods. The floating platform blocks sunlight, preventing the growth of algae. Lastly, fish and wildlife enjoy the new addition to their habitat.

This is the first time that floating treatment wetlands have been used in New York State Parks.  Environmental staff will determine the effectiveness of this project by monitoring water quality changes over time (e.g. harmful nutrient levels and algal blooms by the inlet as well as lake-wide).  If successful, then floating wetlands may be used to help treat stormwater pollution and improve other aquatic habitats in New York.

Post by April Brun, Gabriella Cebada Mora, and Erin Lennon.

Rockland photos by Gabriella Cebada Mora, Aissa Feldmann, Matt Brincka, and Erin Lennon.

Resources

Floating Island/Wetland images and information

US Environmental Protection Agency information on nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms:
(Website)                   (Video)

NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation information on fertilizers and how to reduce nutrient runoff:

(Website)                   (Video)

Fall in Love with Autumn Camping

If you think camping in a state park campground is enjoyable in the summer, wait until you experience an overnight getaway in September or early October, when New York’s outdoors is awash in enough colors and sounds of the season to overwhelm the senses.

The autumn mist rising from the water’s surface on a brisk morning, paddling along a tree-lined shore edged in spectacular reds, oranges and golds, the crunch of leaves underfoot on a hike, the aroma of coffee over a crackling fire — these are just a few of the experiences awaiting those campers who prefer to camp once the crowds thin, schools are back in session, and Labor Day is in the rearview mirror.

Benefits to fall camping include fewer neighbors, fewer bugs, and a greater selection of sites from the peak summer season.  With the right clothes and gear, the slightly cooler temperatures make fall camping more comfortable than in the commonly muggy dog days of summer.

Plan to extend a leaf-peeping day trip and sleep under the autumn stars. You can book ahead to reserve a spot or opt for a spontaneous adventure and just grab your gear and go. Many state park campgrounds throughout New York are still open with availability for tent and trailer sites, yurts, cabins, and cottages.

Here are just a few of our fall favorites:

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Listen to the rustling leaves while you camp at Allegany State Park, photo by State Parks.

At 65,000 acres, Allegany State Park is the perfect setting for embracing nature’s colorful palette in the fall months.  Lakes, ponds, and miles of trails, beckon outdoor lovers for hiking, biking, nature walks, fishing, paddling, and more.  Choose from tent and trailer sites, cabins, and cottages.

The Middle Falls At Letchworth State Park
Ballooning at Letchworth State Park, photo by Jim Vallee.

In the Genesee Valley, the sweeping views at Letchworth State Park are jaw-dropping in every season, but add vibrant foliage to the mix and prepare to be amazed by the sheer grandeur.  For campers, the park offers tent and trailer sites and cabins.  Visit the new Humphrey Nature Center or explore the gorge trail on your own — views from Inspiration Point and Middle Falls are a must-see.

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Enjoy the waterfalls at Taughannock Falls State Park, photo by State Parks.

The Finger Lakes gorge parks also provide a stunning backdrop for camping this time of year.  Take a break from campfire cooking and enjoy the bounty of farm-to-table restaurants or the premier wineries in the area. Home to 19 waterfalls, Watkins Glen State Park on Seneca Lake welcomes campers to an array of wooded campsites (many with electric hookups) and rustic cabins.  Walk along the winding paths of the gorge or take a bike ride on the nearby Catharine Valley TrailTaughannock Falls State Park on Cayuga Lake leaves visitors spellbound with its namesake waterfall and rocky cliffs that perch high above the gorge.

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Fall camping with a furry friend at Green Lakes State Park, photo by State Parks.

The only thing more colorful than the fall foliage at Green Lakes State Park is the actual Caribbean-like hues of the glacial lakes themselves.  With campsites nearby including many full-service sites and renovated cabins, campers also have easy access to the park’s 20 miles of hiking trails and championship golf course.

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If you camp at Moreau Lake State Park, take a hike around the lake, photo by State Parks.

Moreau Lake State Park is situated in the foothills of the Adirondacks with tent and trailer sites, cabins and cottages. Hike or bike on the 27 miles of trails and enjoy paddling and fishing on the scenic waters of the park’s beautiful lake or the Hudson River.  Wildlife viewing is a favorite!

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Autumn campers at Taconic State Park, photo by State Parks

Taconic State Park offers autumn campers incredible sites for tents or trailers, cabins and cottages, and plenty to see and do including biking, hiking, fishing, paddling, and more.  As part of the adventure, be sure to check out the Harlem Valley Trail, the South Taconic Trail, Bash Bish Falls, and the Copake Iron Works Museum.

 

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Fall colors at Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site, photo by State Parks

Tip:  Whether planning a fall camping adventure or taking a leaf-peeping day-trip, a good resource to determine peak color location is the I Love NY Fall Foliage Report issued weekly.

Voting NO on Women’s Suffrage

Women have not always had the legal right to vote in America.  On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified granting women the right to vote. This milestone in women’s history was the result of decades of sustained action: protests, political organizing, direct confrontations and debates with people who felt women needed no further rights. Suffragists were ostracized, fired from jobs, beaten, arrested and imprisoned – all because they dared to strive for the right to vote.

For the supporters of women’s suffrage gaining the vote was a matter of life or death. Women were subject to the will and mistreatment of their husbands, both financially and physically within the home. Husbands had complete legal authority over their wives and could abuse them with no fear of consequences. Any woman attempting to leave a marriage faced the loss of custody of their children and destitution. The workplace was no better; women faced sexual harassment, abuse, terrible working conditions and lower wages than their male counterparts with little to no legal recourse. Women were also barred from many professions completely. The vote meant access to the political power needed to reshape laws and gain equal treatment and dignity as human beings.

When it came to the issue of women’s suffrage, New York was a state at war within itself.  Major activists on both sides of the issue held meetings, published articles, and attempted to sway public opinion.

The anti-suffragists claimed that giving women the vote would move them too far away from their primary duty of running the home. They fully agreed with the notion that a “woman’s place” was in the home, although they did concede that women should contribute their time and talents to educational, charitable, religious and moral organizations.  These endeavors did not require the vote, nor included politics.

Charles S. Fairchild, husband of Helen Lincklaen, was a politician and served under President Cleveland as the Secretary of the Treasury. Fairchild was the fourth owner of the estate which would later become Lorenzo State Historic Site in Cazenovia N.Y. and a staunch supporter of anti-suffrage. He was an active local leader in the effort to prevent women from gaining the vote. The collections of Lorenzo include many anti-suffrage items, such as, printed speeches, several issues of The Woman Patriot, a button which reads: “VOTE NO ON WOMAN SUFFRAGE”, anti-suffrage pennants, and books and handbills with titles like Anti-Suffrage: Ten Good Reasons and The Menace of Women’s Suffrage in New York State—some with hand written personal inscriptions by the authors.

Fairchild was not alone in his views within the town of Cazenovia. Many prominent individuals, both men and women, considered themselves avid supporters of the anti-suffrage cause. The Cazenovia Anti-Suffrage Society was very active and held regular meetings to support their cause and raise funds. Many anti-suffrage groups were organized by women; and the majority of these organizers were members of the upper class with husbands in prominent positions in business and politics.

From our modern day perspective it may be difficult to imagine why so many women supported the anti-suffrage cause. But the popular view of society in the early 1900s holds many of the answers. Life was cleanly divided into two halves, the domestic realm and the public world. Men were believed to be ideally suited by their nature to be masters of public life. Aggression and a competitive spirit were seen as traits best suited to politics, finance and war. Women were the converse, the peacemakers, the orchestrators of a happy family, the creators of cleanliness and order within the home. These views were not only popular but for many unquestionably true.  Suffragists challenged this world view directly with the assertion that women were equal citizens and deserved the right to vote.

The first organized effort to seek the vote for women in New York began in 1846 when a small group of women in Clayton NY petitioned the state government asking for “equal, and civil and political rights with men.” It took nearly 75 years to shift public opinion away from these historic, engrained views towards a more equitable society.

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Kids in Nature

You’ve probably heard about kids not getting outdoors and in nature enough these days. The good news is you don’t have to be an expert on the outdoors to take kids into nature! Kids are curious beings. Taking the time to look and discover is more important than knowing the names of everything or how things work.

Kids are natural explorers outside, so your biggest challenge will be getting them back indoors. Others may not be used to bugs,  dirt and the freedom to look around and discover, so it may take a little encouragement.

Let’s get outside! Whether you are a parent, friend, babysitter, educator here are 7 fun ideas for getting kids outside in nature.

Tiny Explorers: All you have to do is make sure they are safe and they will figure out the rest. Walking on spongy grass, dabbling in puddles – who doesn’t love puddles – or feeling the roughness of a big log and learning the words to describe what they are feeling in nature is all part of the experience.

Beaches on Lakes, Rivers or the Ocean: These are great spots for exploring. There are almost always bugs,  shells and rocks to find. And of course water and sand make for endless opportunities for building castles and moats. Look for Learn-to-Swim classes, too. Lessons will help kids (and you) feel more at ease on the waterfront. 

Stream Watchers: Shallow rocky streams are also intriguing – especially for more active kids that like to climb on rocks or logs, launch sticks and watch them float down stream, and look for fish, frogs, stream insects and snails. Avoid fast moving or deep streams that can be hazardous. Remember to put any animals back where you found them as that is their home. 

Young Scientists: If your child has a deep interest in nature, they might like keeping a nature notebook like a real scientist. This boy was learning about logs in a program at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. How big is the log, were there holes, is there moss ora mushroom on it; did you see any insects or other animals on or inside it? Or collect some leaves – how many kinds can you find? Or draw pictures of the different insects and caterpillars one finds in the garden of meadow.

Bird and butterfly watching: This takes a bit more patience, waiting and watching, to see birds, butterflies or even dragonflies! But it is amazing what you can see when you take the time to watch. This activity is good for older kids as it takes some skill to focus the binoculars. Younger kids can practice using binoculars made from cardboard tubes. If you are new to this, look for guided programs aimed at young people or families. 

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Youth with binoculars, photo by USDA

Get the Bug: Get a little butterfly net and see what you can find. This can be a good prop for kids who get bored with walks or just looking at stuff. Swinging a net, whether or not it catches anything, can be fun. Best to learn what bees and wasps look like first though, and to aim for the butterflies and moths instead. Look for fun pollinator activities at parks near you- these activities are for kids of all ages.    

Bike Riding: Bike riding in parks is great way to see and hear nature. You would be surprised at how much one is learning even when not specifically focused on looking at the trees, the birds or the bugs. Animals will dart across the trail or scurry away as you get closer, birds will be singing, and you will pass by hundreds of different species of plants (trees, wildflowers, ferns), increasing  your awareness of the diversity of the natural world. Having a physical activity and a sense of accomplishment from a bike ride or a hike can help sustain interest in getting outdoors. Check out trail maps on parks’ websites and remember your helmets! 

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Some State Parks trails are great for bicycling, photo by Josh Teeter

What to do when you don’t know the answers?

What is it? Kids will ask but they don’t expect you to always have an answer. Feel free to say you don’t know, but take the time to look a little closer to explore together. “Hmmm, it is some kind of animal – see how it hops. It is very tiny. Can you see its eyes?” or “What a nice flower. Do you think the bees like it? Let’s watch to see if any bees or butterflies or other insects come to the flowers to feed. They like the sweet nectar.” A tip from educators: don’t reply with “it’s just a bug” or “just a flower”because everything is novel and interesting.

What is it doing? See if they can come up with an idea of what the animal is doing. Are they swimming, jumping, sunning, sleeping, searching for food, talking (in animal language), fighting, or running away. Why are they running away? Why do they burrow in the sand? If you don’t know, children often come up with pretty good ideas about what is going on if you encourage them to take the time to watch.

Special for 4th Graders!

Every Kid in a Park Program: Free entry for 4th grade students and accompanying family into National Parks across the country and NY State Parks in 2017  and

State Parks offer ideal places to bring children – the trails, interpretive signs, and beaches are ideal spots for kids to explore the nature world.  We hope to see you there!

Recommended Guide Books – check your library, bookstore or online distributor:

Peterson First Guides: A series of small, inexpensive books on insects, wildflowers, mammals, caterpillars, seashores, birds, and other topics. Highly recommended for young and old as an introduction and guide to more common plants and animals one might encounter.

Backyard Birds (Field Guides for Young Naturalists) by Karen Stray Nolting, Jonathon Latimer and Roger Tory Peterson 1999.

The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards 2011.

The Bumper Book of Nature: A User’s Guide to the Great Outdoors by Stephen Moss 2010.

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups by Gina Ingolgia 2013. Published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden and full of questions and answers about trees in both city and countryside.

 Post by Julie Lundgren, NY Natural Heritage Program. The author grew up exploring the back yard and woods and has spent a lifetime working as an environmental educator and ecologist.

Stars in the Forest

In late summer, if the humidity is high and we’ve had lots of rain, look for earth stars on the forest floor.  Found in hardwood forests with beech, maple, birch, and ash trees, earth stars are the fruiting bodies of underground mushrooms.

Sporocarps, or fruiting bodies, are a specialized part of a mushroom that produce mushroom spores. These spores are how mushrooms spread, carried by the wind to new locations.  Puff balls and truffles are other examples of mushroom fruiting bodies and you may have seen mushroom spores if you have ever kicked a dry puff ball. The grey powder that comes out of the puff ball are mushroom spores.

Earth star fruiting bodies make up only a small portion of a mushrooms mass.  The rest of the mushroom is growing underground as mycelium, thread-like part of the mushroom.  A mycelia (a single strand of mycelium) takes up nutrients from the place where they are growing. You may have seen mycelium growing under a log or in a pile of old leaves.

By André-Ph. D. Picard from WikiCommons
Mushroom mycellium, photo by André-Ph. D. Picard from WikiCommons

Since mycelium grow underground, it is hard to know the size of the fungus.  In 1998, forestry scientists discovered a single fungus from a honey mushroom in the Blue Mountains in Oregon that was found in nearly four square miles (1,665 football fields) of forest soil.

While the fungi in the northeast US are not as large as the northwest US, it is still fun to find mushrooms in the forest.  Keep an eye out for earth stars and other mushroom fruiting bodies during your walks and hikes in State Parks. Late summer through mid-October is a great time to see them.  If you do find some, share your photo.

Learn more about earth stars and other New York mushrooms:

Baroni, Timothy J.; Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada; Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2017.

Bessette, Alan; Mushrooms of Northeastern North America; Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press, 1996.

Rock, Stephen J. “Hunting Mushrooms”, NYS DEC Conservationist, July 2013: 23-27

Mushroom Observer

Join a mushroom club, they sometime lead walks in state parks and state historic sites:

Central New York Mycological Society

Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association

Long Island Mycological Club

Mid-Hudson Mycological Association

Mid York Mycological Club

New York Mycological Society

Rochester Area Mycological Association

Susquehanna Valley Mycological Society

Western NY Mycology Club

Featured image by Lilly Schelling, State Parks

The official blog for New York State Parks & Historic Sites

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