It was a beautiful Monday morning as my fellow Student Conservation Association Hudson Valley AmeriCorps members and I made the trek to the Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Members were coming from as far north as Moreau Lake State Park (near the Adirondacks) and as far south as Jones Beach State Park on Long Island. I had come to Sam’s Point before to volunteer with bird surveys, so I was thrilled to return to this spot for our service project. We had gathered at what would be our home base for the next three days – us in a circle, cars in the background, and a spectacular view of Sam’s Point itself. We had gathered here for the 9/11 Patriots’ Day of Remembrance and held a moment of silence to reflect on that day 16 years ago, as well as the service we would be providing for the parks.
Before we could get started, some orientation was in order, as there was a lot of information to cover. Sam’s Point has a rare population of ridgetop dwarf pitch pine barrens, supporting wildlife such as birds, fishers (small mammals related to weasels), and porcupines. In April 2016, a wildfire broke out in the area, and efforts are underway to study the resilience of this ecosystem. We were able to see more of the area by hiking up to the scenic overlook as well as to the super cool ice caves!
There were multiple projects being done in our three days of service. Two crews worked on erosion control devices on the Verkeerderkill Falls Footpath. One crew worked on making water bars, trail structures that take the water off the trail. Another crew worked on building bog bridges, low wooden bridge structures that raise the trail out of the water or other sensitive area. The third crew was constructing invasive plant boot brush stations at various entrances around the park preserve. I was part of the invasive species crew for the service project. Our main focus was removing spotted knapweed, a purple flower that grew on the edge of the Loop Road. We had been out in the sun working hard on knapweed removal, and towards the end of the day, decided to move in the shade to work on stilt grass.
While pulling knapweed for many hours at a time, SCA members were able to have some fun. We had started to play the game Murder on the Trail, which is where the “killer” would stick out their tongue at a person, and five minutes, later the “victim” had to die dramatically. Aaron (one of the program managers) came to check in on us and did not know we were playing this game – he wasn’t sure what was happening when someone dropped to the ground. Other fun things included exploring Lake Maratanza and finding baby snakes! From the beginning of the trail at the bottom of the ridge, all the way to the top, past Sam’s Point towards Lake Maratanza, we pulled almost half a mile of knapweed. That’s a lot of knapweed!
The other teams worked hard and played hard too! The bog bridging crew installed over 170 feet of new bog bridges and the water bar crew improved almost a quarter mile of trail on one of the park preserve’s most popular trails. The boot brush crew installed three new boot brush stations to educate the public about invasive species and help stop the spread of invasive plant seeds.’
After three days of hard work and camping out at Sam’s Point, it was time for all of us to return to our homes in the Hudson valley. We had done great work for the park and I was happy to be a part of it.
Thank you to the SCA, SCA members, State Parks, and the staff of Sam’s Point. Until next time!
Post by Emily Enoch, SCA Hudson Valley AmeriCorps Member