Category Archives: Park Projects

Green Parking At FDR State Park

A project at Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park aims to redesign the 6.2 acre parking lot in order to greater serve the goals of environmental sustainability and stewardship. The project will rehabilitate the lot’s surface, improve the efficiency of the parking layout and improve drainage and storm water runoff quality. The new parking lot will feature native trees and vegetation to visually soften the hard surface of the parking lot. Ultimately, the redesign will create a more welcoming and pleasant entrance experience to patrons visiting the popular pool and provide important benefits to the park’s wetland and lake by reducing the amount of nutrients (e.g. phosphorus) and typical parking lot pollutants that are currently flowing into these resources untreated.

This is a joint project between NYS OPRHP and the NY Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT has been tasked with reducing phosphorus loading from storm water runoff from public highways and other impervious surfaces within the Croton watershed. They identified the large pool parking lot at FDR as a project that would help them meet their phosphorus reduction goals. As this lot is in need of rehabilitation, DOT’s assistance with its upgrade will result in a net benefit for both agencies. DOT will provide design and construction management funding and assistance. OPRHP will fund the construction contract.

 The Environmental Impact of Parking Lots

Parking lots can be bad for the environment for many reasons. More pavement means less green space, thereby reducing the number of trees and plants that serve as natural “air cleaners” by absorbing carbon dioxide in the air and releasing oxygen. It also means less open soil that can collect rainwater, which helps to replenish natural aquifers. Impervious surfaces, like asphalt, don’t allow rain to percolate into the ground; instead they channel rainwater to a storm drain. Stormwater runoff can be highly polluted with oil, grease, coolant, and other fluids which leak out of cars and collect on pavement until rain washes it into our lakes and streams, negatively impacting our health as well as the habitat and living conditions of fish and other aquatic life.

Another negative effect of parking lots is that they raise local temperatures through a process known as the “heat island” effect. Asphalt and concrete absorb and retain heat from the sun’s rays more than the surrounding ground. This in turn raises surrounding temperatures a few degrees.

The Project at FDR State Park

FDR State Park is located along the Taconic State Parkway, approximately 40 miles north of New York City. The park offers day use recreational facilities including picnicking, trails, fishing and boating and areas for field games. One of the central features of the park is a large outdoor pool that can accommodate up to 3,500 bathers at a time. The park is popular with local residents for walking, hosts many events throughout the year and is also used for winter activities.

To accommodate all these visitors, FDR State Park also has a very large parking area. The lot is 6.2 acres in size and primarily services the pool complex during the summer. It is also used year-round for access to nearby trails, picnic areas, and events. Storm water drainage from the existing lot is directed to storm drains that flow to a nearby wetland and then into Mohansic Lake, a large lake within the park.

Bioswales are landscape elements designed to filter silt and pollution from surface runoff water.
Bioswales are landscape elements designed to filter silt and pollution from surface runoff water.

The primary elements of the proposed design include:

  • Parking Lot – The existing asphalt surface will be removed and replaced. The removed asphalt will be milled and reused or recycled. In addition, approximately 15,000 square feet of asphalt will be removed from an adjacent service road entrance and replaced with grass.
  •  Storm water treatment – The proposed plan includes the construction of new bioswales throughout the lot which will consist of a combination of soil, cobbles and native vegetation. Storm water drainage will flow into these areas before entering into the existing storm water drainage system. These bioswales will allow for biological filtration and treatment, breaking down many of the nutrients and pollutants found in typical storm water runoff. Native trees, shrubs, and ornamental grass species will be planted to reduce the lot’s heat island effect, improve aesthetics, and provide shade and wind breaks. Below is a photo of a typical bioswale that is similar to what will be installed.

green parking 1

BioBlitz results!

On May 3, 2014, over a hundred volunteers with scientific backgrounds gathered at Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County and Clark Reservation State Park in Onondaga county for two concurrent Bioblitzes, 24-hour inventories of the park’s biodiversity. Our objectives were to search the park for as many rare species and natural communities in the park as we could find. This was a collaborative effort between NY Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP), State Parks, and Parks & Trails New York. Participants included biologists with various specialties and affiliations including NYS DEC, NatureServe, Syracuse University, SUNY-ESF, Mohonk Preserve, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Student Conservation Association. At least 9 different organizations were represented.

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), a rare plant documented at Minnewaska. Photo by Alyssa Reid
Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), a rare plant documented at Minnewaska. Photo by Alyssa Reid

The main survey period was between 9am and 5pm on May 3rd, but some intrepid volunteers stayed through the night to look for nocturnal animals, while others arose on May 4th between 5am and 11am to identify spring migratory birds. In both parks, small teams sought out rare species and high biodiversity areas. The weather was overcast and cool on May 3rd, which made some of the surveys particularly difficult.

At Minnewaska State Park, we were able to document approximately 262 plants, animals, and fungi, as well as 7 of the NYNHP significant natural communities. The summary of our findings includes at least 100 plants and 150 animal species: 89 birds, 6 fish, 16 herps (amphibians and reptiles), 16 mammals, and 23 invertebrates. The species included cool mammals like the American mink (Neovison vison), shy amphibians like the northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus), delicate insects like the spring azure (Celastrina ladon), and steadfast trees like the American chestnut (Castanea dentata).

Painted turtle, by Matt Schlesinger, NYNHP
Painted turtle, by Matt Schlesinger, NYNHP

At Clark Reservation, we documented over 372 different species of plants, animals, and fungi and updated records for the 4 high-quality natural communities known in the park. The tally includes 193 species of plants (including lichens) and 96 species of animals, including 6 mammals, 7 herps, 46 birds, 4 fish, and 116 invertebrates. Of the many invertebrates identified, some of the largest groups were beetles (18), millipedes (10), caddisflies (10), and snails (6). The list of species included some entertaining names, such as bugle sprite (a snail), poverty grass, tortured tortella moss and seductive entodon moss. The Bioblitz proved to be an invaluable opportunity to get experts out in the park cataloging groups of species, like mosses and snails, which are often overlooked in typical biological inventories.

Due to the timing of the Bioblitz to coincide with I Love My Parks Day on May 3rd, our bird surveys included both passing migrants and potential park residents. Whip-poor-wills (Caprimulgus vociferous), a species of special concern, were sighted in several locations at Minnewaska, and based on last year’s NYNHP surveys, they are known to nest in the park. At Clark, the highlights were osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), both of which are species of special concern in New York.

The invertebrate team working hard at Clark Reservation. Photo by Julie Lundgren
The invertebrate team working hard at Clark Reservation. Photo by Julie Lundgren

The bioblitz was an extension of the long-standing partnership between NYNHP and State Parks to document rare species and natural communities in New York State Parks. Scientists found a wealth of biodiversity and enjoyed collaborating across organizations and areas of expertise in a beautiful natural setting. We hope to continue these valuable efforts to bring experts together to share knowledge, contribute to our understanding of the biota in New York State Parks, and to encourage further opportunities for park staff and the public to learn more about the special features in parks.

featured image is a spring azure butterfly by Mike Adamovic, post by Paris Harper, Erin White and Julie Lundgren

Invasive Species Awareness Week

New York State is celebrating its first Invasive Species Awareness Week July 6-12, 2014!

Invasive species affect all New Yorkers – from hikers to highway personnel, from birders to boaters and from farmers to foresters. The mission of the New York Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) is to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action.

To celebrate the very first awareness week, Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs) across the state are hosting fun volunteer events targeting invasive species. These include awareness-raising nature walks, a garlic-mustard pesto making event, and a vigorous mile-a-minute vine removal.

To learn more about Invasive Species Awareness Week Events near you, check out the blog on the NYIS website, or the NYS Parks events calendar.

Water_chestnut2

 

Wetland Mitigation at Evangola State Park

In 2010, the NYS Thruway Authority planned to make much needed improvements to I-90 near Irving, NY, a project which would inadvertently affect about 2 acres of emergent marsh wetlands in the area.

In order to mitigate these adverse impacts on the marsh habitat, the NYS Thruway Authority teamed up with Evangola State Park and Watts Architecture & Engineering by reclaiming a dry, rocky, flat fill area and transforming it into a valuable and productive habitat.

July 28, 2010 - the project area at the beginning of construction - not very impressive, is it?

July 28, 2010 – the project area at the beginning of construction – not very impressive, is it?
The project, well underway!
The project, well underway!

Taking advantage of the area’s natural hydrology and terrain, landscape engineers created a three acre wetland along Evangola’s entrance parkway. This new habitat feature is home to various amphibian, reptile, and fish species, as well as a nesting and foraging site for a variety of birds and ducks.

Wetlands play a very important role in the environment, including ecosystems services that are valuable to humans. Wetlands act as water purification system, flood control, and they improve the stability of shoreline. Wetlands are also often the most biologically diverse ecosystems in a region, serving as home to a wide range of plants and animals. In New York, wetlands are used as stopovers for migrating birds, as a breeding habitat for migratory birds and other birds that nest in wetlands, and as a winter home for many amphibian species.

These Canada geese were some of the first creatures checking out the new real estate
These Canada geese were some of the first creatures checking out the new real estate

The human-made wetland at Evangola also presents various opportunities for educational ecological study to school groups, summer camps, and scout troops that visit the park. A hands-on outdoor classroom allows students to gain first hand experiential knowledge of this important ecosystem type.

The beautiful wetlands, finally completed.
The beautiful wetlands, finally completed.

The project’s overwhelming success prompted the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York to Award the Wetland Mitigation project at Evangola State Park the Gold Award for Engineering Excellence to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, the first landscape project to ever win this prestigious award. The award was a nod to the project’s excellent design, and the educational opportunities it created.

photos by NYS Parks

Deer Survey at Schunnemunk Mountain

Keeping track of the deer populations in NYS Parks isn’t a pretty job. On Monday, March 31st, a team from New York State Offices of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation traveled to Schunnemunk Mountain to carry out a deer pellet survey. Schunnemunk Mountain is located in Schunnemunk State Park in Orange County. One problem that the state parks are facing is deer overpopulation. The large populations of deer are eating native plants and causing a decrease in biodiversity. To inform our knowledge of deer populations, State Parks monitor the deer pellets left in parks to estimate the number of deer in a region.

To make estimates of deer numbers in a large area, wildlife specialists draw parallel transects across the park area.

Schunnemunk transect map

Schunnemunk deer pelletsFollowing the transect using compass and GPS, the surveyors measure out points 100 feet apart and scan the ground for pellet groups at each point. Points have a radius of four feet in every direction (See figure below). When counting pellets, we look for at least 10 pellets in a grouping. The number of pellet groups can help surveyors estimate the number of deer living in the area.

Schunnemunk diagram

Naturally, this process involves scrambling through thick brush, across boggy creeks, and over big rocks, but it is all in the name of science!

Of course, it also means catching some lovely views from the top of Schunnemuck Mountain.

 

Post by Mary Greagan and Paris Harper, photos by Paris Harper