Category Archives: Park Volunteers

National Trails Day, Saturday, June 3, 2017

From the tip of Long Island, to the St. Lawrence River, the forests of the Taconic Mountains to the Niagara River Gorge, New York State is home to thousands of miles of trails. Every year on the first Saturday in June we celebrate these places with National Trails Day®.

9fe63f0013d7b070eeaf04be3b93f145Created by the American Hiking Society in 1993, the 2017 celebration marks the 25th anniversary of the event. National Trails Day® seeks to connect people and trails across the country. Organized trail events are hosted at parks and recreation locations across the country and people are encouraged to “participate, recreate, and give back”. Many locations have events where folks can join other trail lovers in an organized hike, paddle, bike or horseback ride. Other spots host trail work days where volunteers can lend a hand and clean up their favorite stretch of trail or even help a trail crew construct a new one. In 2016 there were over 100 events in New York alone!

Outdoor recreation is more popular than ever and many people are finding enjoyment on trails. Whether it’s cycling on a greenway trail, hiking to a scenic view, or paddling a river, trails provide a connection to the natural world.  That connection is important as studies now show that, in addition to our hearts, lungs, and legs, trails are good for our brains as well![1]

With greater numbers of people heading out on the trail, it’s more important than ever to recreate responsibly by following the seven principles taught by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

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The Seven Principles are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

It is also good practice to prevent the spread of damaging insect pests and weeds by brushing off your boots or boat before you leave the trail or water. Following these steps will help you have a safe and satisfying experience and ensure that the trail will be there for the next person to enjoy as well.

To find out more information on National Trails Day® including links to events near you, visit the American Hiking Society’s website. To learn more about the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, visit their website. For maps and information on trails in New York State Parks, visit Trails webpage. National Trails Day® events in State Parks can be found here.

See you on the trails!

Post by Chris Morris, State Parks

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[1] New York Times, How nature changes your brain.

I Love My Park

On Saturday, May 6, thousands of New Yorkers will again join their family, friends and neighbors at over 120 state parks and historic sites to participate in volunteer projects as part of the sixth annual I Love My Park Day, a partnership between New York State Parks and Parks & Trails New York.  On behalf New York State Parks, I look forward to welcoming you all to what is a remarkable day for the New York State Park system.

Sponsored jointly by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and Parks & Trails New York, I Love My Park Day is a statewide event to improve and enhance New York’s parks and historic sites and bring visibility to the entire park system and its needs. Public parks in every corner of the State, from Jones Beach State Park to Niagara Falls State Park, will participate this year. Volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in clean up events at five national parks in New York State: Gateway National Recreation Area (Great Kills, Staten Island and Plumb Beach, Jamaica Bay, Queens); Fort Stanwix National Monument (Rome); Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites (Hyde Park); Fire Island National Seashore (Ocean Beach) and Saratoga Battlefield Historical Park (Stillwater), as well as fourteen properties managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in the Adirondack and Catskill Regions and at three environmental centers, Catskill Interpretive Center (Mount Tremper); Five Rivers Environmental Education Center (Delmar) and Reinstein Woods (Buffalo).  And, again this year, we will be joined across the state by members of the New York State Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC), a New York State AmeriCorps program run by the Student Conservation Association, who will help State parks organize and implement I Love My Park Day projects.

Each year, a record number of volunteers turn out and complete an impressive array of projects to beautify our facilities and prepare them for the summer season. Volunteers will celebrate New York’s public lands by cleaning up debris, planting trees and gardens, restoring trails and wildlife habitat, removing invasive species, and working on various site improvement projects.    Your efforts demonstrate just how important your parks and historic sites are to your families, communities, and to our entire state as places to be active, explore the outdoors and relax with family and friends.  It is our honor to work every day to ensure that all state parks are open and accessible for all to visit, but we could not do it without you—the volunteers and friends who work not just on I Love My Park Day but year-round to make our parks and sites the very best they can be.

If you haven’t already registered, do so soon by visiting http://www.ptny.org/ilovemypark/index.shtml.

Post by Commissioner Rose Harvey

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Keep An Eye Out For HWA

The winter is a great time to visit State Parks in New York. Even in these colder months, opportunities for recreation are abundant and each year State Parks welcomes cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and hikers, who enthusiastically explore the many miles of trail that are open and maintained for winter activities.

Many recreationists are as eager to hit the trails in the winter as in the warmer months, but most are likely not aware that by enjoying their favorite winter past-time, they are also able to aid State Parks Biologists and staff in detecting an insidious invasive pest.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), is a non-native, invasive aphid-like insect that infests Eastern Hemlocks throughout New York State, and across most of the eastern US. The insect attacks the tree by attaching to the underside of the branch at the base of the needles, and feeding on the sap. The tree will respond by shutting down resources to the damaged areas. Eventually, as the infestation spreads, the tree dies – the insects having essentially sucked the life out of it.

Currently, work is being done throughout NY State to try to slow the spread of this pest. However, in order to combat HWA, researchers first need to know where it has (and hasn’t) been found. This creates an opportunity for concerned and conservation-minded citizens to provide a great service to the parks they love, and to help to protect the natural beauty that they cherish.

Hemlocks, one of many coniferous (cone-bearing) species throughout New York State, can best be identified by their needles, which are flat, generally a little more than an inch long, and have two white lines running parallel on the underside. The winter months are the best time of year to check these trees for HWA. The insects, which lay eggs in the fall, coat the egg sacks with a white, woolly protective layer, which allows the developing young to survive the winter. This white “wool” also makes the egg sacks very visible throughout the winter months (mainly December-March), and allows observers, with little to no formal training, to detect the presence of HWA in hemlocks.

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HWA egg sacks on an Eastern Hemlock branch. Note the two white lines on the underside of the needles. Photo by Alyssa Reid, NYS Parks.

Checking for HWA is easy – simply flip a hemlock branch over, and scan the base of the needles for the presence of white, woolly, round egg-sacks. While some larger hemlocks have branches that are un-reachable, many of the smaller trees have overhanging branches that can easily be reached without leaving the trail. Take note of where you are, and anything that looks suspicious (many smart phones will even allow you to save your location), and let Parks staff know where you found HWA before you head home for the day.

So, as you head out on the trail this season, consider pausing from time-to-time to inspect a nearby hemlock branch or two. NY State’s hemlocks need our help, and you can play an important role in conservation, while enjoying the outdoors!

For more information, or to find out how to volunteer and learn more about HWA and invasive forest pests, contacts NYS Parks Invasive Species Staff: 845-256-0579.

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HWA surveys are an important way to help out, while exploring New York’s winter wonderland. Photo by Alyssa Reid, State Parks

Post by Sarah Travalio, State Parks

Twelve Years and Counting….. Allegany State Park Celebrates National Public Lands Day

Twelve years ago the Environmental Education/Recreation Department at Allegany State Park decided to host a new event –National Public Lands Day (a National Environmental Education Foundation program). It is our nation’s largest one-day event designed to give people a chance to give back to the public lands they use and love by volunteering some of their time. This mission of National Public Lands Day really resonated with park staff.

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Picnic table assembly, photo by Tom LeBlanc

From its beginnings in 2005 when we thought it was a great idea to have service projects all over our 65,000 acre park, our volunteers have done much to improve Allegany and enhance the visitor experience for park patrons. We quickly got smart and now rotate this event between the Red House and Quaker sides of the park each year. A few of our accomplishments include:

  • ŸCreating a two acre butterfly meadow incorporating an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible sensory trail
  • ŸRemoving invasive plants, (Japanese Honeysuckle and Multiflora Rose) and opening up vistas around Red House Lake
  • ŸInstalling a hummingbird/butterfly garden in an under-used area in front of the Quaker Museum
  • —Freshening up many buildings and cabins with new coats of paint
  • ŸMaintaining park structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
  • ŸRemoving litter –an unglamorous, but to park staff, majorly appreciated task
  • ŸPlanting new trees

We are immensely grateful for our volunteers and count ourselves fortunate to work with so many great individuals, families, community groups, area high school and college students, and scout troops. They are the driving force that makes National Public Lands Day a success!

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Refurbishing the garden outside the Quaker Rental office, photo by Tom LeBlanc

According to the Independent Sector (www.independentsector.org), the estimated dollar value for volunteer hours in 2015 was $23.56. That means that the 100 volunteers who turned out for last year’s event contributed a total value of $11,780. That is amazing for a 5 hour workday! A big thank you to all who made this possible!

2016 finds us preparing for our twelfth National Public Lands Day celebration. We are looking forward to seeing our core of “regulars,” and extend an invitation to all Allegany State Park fans interested in caring for this New York State treasure. Please join us! This year’s celebration is on Saturday, September 24th and takes place on the Red House side of the park. Check-in/Registration is from 9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. at the Red House Toll Booth. Service projects are from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. (please bring a lunch) followed by a barbecue chicken dinner at 4:00 p.m. (for a very nominal charge). We ask that you come dressed for the weather and plan to get dirty. This event will be held rain or shine.

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Painting the inside of St. John’s in the Woods chapel, photo by Tom LeBlanc

For more information and to pre-register (by September 19th) please contact the Environmental Education/Recreation Department at 716-354-9101 ext. 236 or email Katie.vecellio@parks.ny.gov. We will also gladly accept walk-in volunteers the day of the event.

Hope to see you there!

Please note: There are many other volunteer events taking place in our state parks around the state. Please visit our Events Calendar to search for opportunities near you.

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Litter pick up on ASP Route 3, photo by Tom LeBlanc

Post by Heidi Tschopp, Allegany State Park Educator

Southern Pine Beetle in New York

Southern pine beetle has killed thousands of pine trees since it was first found in New York State in 2014. This bark beetle is native to the southern United States, but arrived in New York after working its way northward for many years. Although the beetles are small (2-4 mm; less than 1/8th inch), they are able to kill trees in 2 to 4 months by attacking in large numbers. Once beneath the bark, the thousands of beetles create S-shaped tunnels as they feed on the inner bark, which soon cuts off the nutrients the tree needs to survive and grow.

In New York, pitch pine trees have been attacked by southern pine beetle more than any other species. Pitch pine trees are often a part of unique, globally and statewide rare ecosystems such as Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Barrens, Pitch pine-oak heath woodlands, Pitch pine-heath barrens, Pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summits, Dwarf pine plains, and Dwarf pine ridges. In New York, southern pine beetle has been found in trees across Long Island and in traps as far north as Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the Shawangunk Ridge. Large forested and unique areas such as the Long Island Central Pine Barrens Preserve and the Shawangunk Ridge are of the highest priority to protect. Maps of the pitch pine communities of statewide significance created by NY Natural Heritage Program provide further guidance on priorities. Although there are no known means to eradicate southern pine beetle, there are measures to reduce the beetles’ impacts and save some of the susceptible pines.

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Map of confirmed southern pine beetle infestations from ground surveys and traps as well as suspected infestations from aerial surveys. Photo credit: Scott McDonnell, NYS DEC

To help fight against southern pine beetle, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Forest Health team has conducted trapping, aerial surveys, and ground surveys to monitor for the beetle and cut infested trees (suppression) to manage the beetle. Currently, suppression efforts are focused in the Central Pine Barrens of Long Island. In some cases, pines are replanted along trails or in areas where impacts have been high. The beetles do not attack small, young trees, so the hope is that some trees will survive and produce seed to maintain pine in these ecosystems.

In areas that the beetles were captured in traps, but were not found in trees, such as at Bear Mountain and Minnewaska State Parks, the focus continues to be on early detection and surveying for infested trees. DEC conducts aerial surveys over Bear Mountain and Minnewaska State Parks to map out areas potentially infested with the beetle. These aerial surveys are quickly followed up by ground surveys by DEC, State Parks, NYNJ Trail Conference, and others to verify if the trees are infested. So far, no ground surveys have found infested trees in either of these parks.

Efforts at Connetquot River State Park Preserve on Long Island, one of the hardest-hit areas, are focused on removal of dead trees. State Parks, with help from the Excelsior Conservation Corps has been cutting down dead trees killed by southern pine beetle along trails to keep the trails safe and open to visitors. State Parks is also chipping up some of these dead trees to help speed up decomposition.

DEC, Parks and Trails New York, and State Parks co-sponsored tree planting as part of I Love My Park Day in Connetquot River State Park Preserve on May 7th, 2016. DEC’s Tree for Tributaries trained volunteers to plant the 600 pitch pine that were donated from New York State’s Saratoga Tree Nursery. The pitch pine trees were raised from seed originating from Long Island and will help maintain the local pitch pine genetics that is adapted to the conditions of Long Island. Through hazard tree mitigation, chipping, suppression, and re-planting pine trees in areas attacked by southern pine beetle such as Connetquot, hopes are that forests will remain safe for public use and maintain their pitch pine components in the wake of southern pine beetle.

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Wildfires are nature’s way of thinning the pitch pine forests and woodlands and keeping these ecosystems healthy. Without fire the pines get too dense and are more susceptible to pests like the southern pine beetle. Mechanical thinning (cutting) can mimic some of the ecological processes of fire to benefit the communities of rare species and reduce SPB infestations. Photo credit: J. Lundgren, NYNHP.

For more information see NYS DEC’s website on Southern Pine Beetle.

For more information on The Southern Pine Beetle Response efforts, see The Southern Pine Beetle Management Plan.

For more information on pitch pine communities see the NYNHP Conservation Guides.  A few of these types are listed below:

Pitch Pine-Oak-Heath Woodland

Pitch Pine-Oak Forest

Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Barrens  (globally rare)

Pitch Pine-Oak-Heath Rocky Summit

For other pitch pine community types or to see what occurs in your county, go to guide.nynhp.org and type “pitch pine” into the advanced search box and check off the community category box.

Post by Molly Hassett, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation and Julie Lundgren, NY Natural Heritage Program