Now that summer is here, when you head to the boat launch for a day on the water, you will often run into a friendly face in a blue vest. These are Boat Stewards! Boat Stewards are educators who share their knowledge of invasive species and how to prevent boats from spreading such species into other waterbodies.
You can expect to run into stewards across much of New York State, since there are more than 200 Stewards who are part of various programs. Here at the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, our Boat Steward program is run in collaboration with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
Beginning the Memorial Day weekend, 20 Stewards are stationed at 25 different State Park boat launches. These experts can answer your questions about aquatic invasive species (AIS) within New York State, provide educational information on many species, and will help check that there are no aquatic hitchhikers on your boat or trailer!
All our stewards within the state will be wearing masks and social distancing for your protection and theirs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please arrive with your boats and equipment already clean, drained, and dried and be willing to help our stewards conduct inspections while maintaining social distance. Please follow the protocols for social distancing and wearing masks in public while at the launches.
When you arrive or leave a boat launch, a Steward will ask to perform a voluntary inspection on your watercraft and encourage you to join them. Remember, please practice social distancing, and stay six feet away from Stewards while they perform their duties.
Inspections apply to both power boats and paddlecraft, like canoes and kayaks.
While completing the inspection, Stewards are on a mission to find all visible plant or animal material attached to the watercraft and trailer and will point out places on the boat where aquatic invasive species often get caught. Stewards also gather information from boaters through a short survey to help understand the movement of AIS across the New York State.
At many locations across the state, Stewards operate Watercraft Decontamination Stations, also known as Boat Wash Stations. Decontamination stations are a free high-temperature, high-pressure wash for your boat.
Boat Wash Stations are highly effective at eradicating aquatic invasive species we might not be able to see with our naked eye, such as young Zebra Mussels or Spiny Waterfleas. The ESF-NYS OPRHP program operates two such units located at Allan Treman State Marine Park on Cayuga Lake and Conesus Lake State Boat Launch.
When stewards are not at the launch, they are busy collaborating with many partner organizations to partake in all levels of invasive species management. They participate in sampling for AIS, mapping new infestations, and large-scale removals of invasive species such as Water Chestnut.
Since the program’s inception in 2014, our boat stewards have conducted more than 100,000 inspections and interacted with more than 250,000 boaters. In 2019, stewards intercepted 3,803 boats that were carrying invasive species.
Each of these boats could have led to a new introduction that has potential to cause significant harm to ecological, economic, and human health.
Yes its true, boaters can expect to be offered free boat washes from stations at select boat launches throughout the state, especially in places like the Adirondacks. The purpose of these stations are to provide free boat washes while also helping to prevent the spread of certain invasive species.
Everyone takes the time to give their cars a good wash periodically, but have you ever thought about how often you should be cleaning your boat? Boats can be carriers of invasive plants and animals. Most of the time, you can see these plants hanging off your propeller, bunks, and trailer and you can simply pick them off. However, some invasive species, like the young of zebra mussels and Asian Clams (called veligers) are so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Yet just adding a few of these into a lake or other waterbody is enough to start an invasion.
When we wash our boats, also known as decontaminating, it reduces the chances of transporting harmful invasive species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, spiny waterfleas, or Asian clams, to additional waterbodies.
How do boat wash stations work?
Boat washing begins with a general boat and trailer inspection. A trained professional, typically a boat or watercraft steward, first checks over your boat to see if it needs to be cleaned. If a boat is noticeably dirty and has visible plant matter on it, or if the boat was previously in a different waterbody, there is a good chance the boat steward will offer to decontaminate your boat for free. After a visual inspection of the boat and trailer, the boat steward will ask you to lower your propeller, just low enough to check if there is any water in the engine. If water comes out, the engine will need to be flushed of that foreign water with 120o F water from the boat wash station.
At pristine waterbodies like Lake George, boat stewards are more concerned with boats going into the lake that were previously elsewhere. In other lakes where many invasive species are already present, boat stewards may focus their decontamination efforts on boats exiting the water, to prevent furthering the spread of those species.
Afterwards, if the boat steward determines that you also should have a full decontamination, they will begin cleaning your boat. The water in the boat wash station is heated up to 140oF with pressure as high as 1,400 PSI. This temperature and pressure has been shown to kill most animals and plants trying to hitchhike on your boat. For specific areas where electronics and engine components are exposed, lower pressure is used to prevent damage to the boats. Boat trailers with felt bunks will be soaked in 140 o F using a low pressure attachment to kill any invasive species that may be hitchhiking on this material.
During the washing, it is important to wash the outside of the boat and trailer, including the propeller, hull, trailer hitch, and underneath the trailer. It is also important to flush the engine and drain the bilge to ensure the boat is properly decontaminated. Boat wash stations can recycle contaminated water and heat it again, ensuring that its runoff will not contaminate the waterbody. Boat stewards take special care to be sure that no damage happens to the boats during cleaning.
Boat wash stations are an effective way to clean your boat of all invasives, including those that may be too small to see. Using the boat washing station is the most efficient and effective way to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, while also providing a free cleaning of your boat and trailer!
Thanks for helping keep New York’s pristine lakes and rivers clean, so we can continue to enjoy them for generations to come!
Click here for more information on boat decontamination procedures:
Decontaminating your boat with a boat wash station is always suggested, but be aware that some lakes, such as Lake George, require you to get a decontamination before launching.
Heading to the Adirondacks or Lake George? Find a boat wash station here.
Since 2010, State Parks has hired seasonal Invasive Species Strike Teams to perform removals of terrestrial invasive plants in New York State Parks and Historic Sites. The work of the Strike Teams allows Parks staff to identify and protect areas of ecological significance that are vulnerable to the growing threat that invasive species pose.
In 2016, two crews were hired, an Eastern Strike Team and a Western Strike Team. Each crew worked a 25-week field season (May 30 – November 18), camping out for much of the time and carrying heavy packs and gear to work sites.
The Eastern Strike Team covered Parks and Historic Sites in the Saratoga-Capital, Taconic, Palisades and Long Island regions.
Over the course of the field season, the crew visited 29 parks in 12 counties.
They worked on 38 different projects, targeting 32 invasive plant species.
The top three focal species were: Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus – 18 acres removed), Phragmites (Phragmites australis – 12 acres removed) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii – 10 acres removed).
Surveys and invasives removals were done on a total of 98 acres.
Much of the work focused on protecting rare elements including:
Karner Blue Butterfly and Sandplain Gerardia – federally endangered
Slender Blue Flag Iris and the rare Pink Tickseed – state threatened
Cerulean Warbler and Golden Winged Warbler – state listed species of special concern
A globally rare maritime grassland habitat
The Eastern Strike Team also spent a portion of their time surveying for the Southern Pine Beetle, an insect native to the southeast U.S., which has spread to the northeast, causing large-scale pine die-off on Long Island. The beetle has been detected in traps in State Parks in the Hudson Valley, but no confirmed infestations have yet been found in Pitch Pines in that region. Surveys were conducted in Schunnemunk State Park, Harriman State Park, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
Strike Team members David Hendler and Mike Ferri inspect a pitch pine for evidence of Southern Pine Beetle , photo by Casey Bannon, State Parks
Strike Team members David Hendler and Mike Ferri survey for Southern Pine Beetle at Schunnemunk State Park, Photos by Casey Bannon, State Parks
The Western Strike Team focused on the Finger Lakes, Central, Thousand Islands, Niagara, Allegany and Genesee Regions.
Over the course of the field season, they visited 22 parks in 15 counties.
They worked on 50 different projects, targeting 19 invasive plant species.
The top three focal species were: Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum), Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) and Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.).
Topping the ranks in numbers or volume removed were: 2.79 acres of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) surveyed and removed, 35,025 Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata ) plants, 34 bags of Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum), and 7 dumpsters filled with Phragmites (Phragmites australis).
Western strike team member Sienna McDonald conquers a honeysuckle plant, photo by Dallas Ortel, State Parks
Western strike team member Phil Bossert works on a pale swallow-wort removal project, photo by Sienna McDonald, State Parks
State Parks also hired two Forest Health Specialists to perform surveys for two non-native insect pests: Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) and Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). These surveys alert New York State Parks invasive species staff to new infestations, assist staff in identifying infested trees that can potentially be saved and allow for the identification and removal of trees that may pose a risk to the safety of park patrons. Forest Health Specialists also performed HWA canopy monitoring (tree-climbing) surveys at sites where HWA-infested trees had been treated previously with chemical insecticides. At these sites, the crew collected data on infestation levels and overall tree health in order to assist invasive species staff in monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.
Over the course of the 18-week field season, the crew was able to visit 17 different parks.
HWA canopy monitoring surveys were performed in 8 parks, and a total of 42 trees were surveyed.
All hemlock trees that had been treated with insecticides in previous years showed either no sign of infestation or signs of improvement.
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) surveys were performed in 14 different parks, and the crew confirmed two new sites of EAB infestation.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The New York State Park’s Boat Steward Program is one of many boat steward programs throughout New York State. These programs provide targeted educational programming to increase awareness about aquatic invasive species (AIS) and other environmentally significant issues.
Did you know that NY State Parks adopted regulations in 2015 to help try to protect our lakes and rivers from the costly effects of invasive species? Find an FAQ about the new regulations here.
The regulations states that a boater:
shall not launch or retrieve their watercraft from a Parks-owned boat launch facility unless the watercraft’s water-containing compartments (livewell, bilge, bait bucket) are dry.
has inspected the watercraft to ensure that there is not plant or animal material attached to the motor, trailer, body of the vessel, etc.
The Boat Steward Program has stewards at many of our Parks-owned boat launches across the state who conduct educational boat inspections to provide step-by-step instructions on ways you can effectively inspect your boat and dispose of invasive species. These demonstrations are both free and voluntary.
Boat Stewards can help you learn about what to do to prevent spreading aquatic invasives and what to look for. They are primarily educators and do not play a role in the enforcement of regulations.
Many Parks-owned boat launches across the state are also equipped with disposal stations for aquatic plant or animal material. The disposal stations are designed to provide a place for plant or animal material to dry out in an upland area. The dried out material is typically collected and placed in the garbage to prevent any further spread.
When you come across a red-shirted Boat Steward, please stop and ask any questions you may have.
2016 Boat Steward Program Highlights:
2016 was the first year of a 2-year $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to expand the boat steward program at state park launches
16 stewards worked 30 launches within the Great Lakes Basin, Lake Champlain Basin, and Saratoga Lake
There were 21,431 voluntary inspections out of 22,344 boats (95% of boaters allowed their boat to be inspected)
2,982 boats were discovered carrying aquatic invasive species
54,627 boaters interacted with Stewards, with many boaters receiving education about Clean-Drain-Dry and aquatic invasive species
11 invasive species removal projects in partnership with Strike Teams and other partners
10 educational events
Approximately 500 bags, or around 12.5 tons, of water chestnut were removed from Selkirk Shores State Park.
This week marks New York Invasive Species Awareness week!
July 10th – 16th, 2016 the State of New York is celebrating their third annual Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW). The purpose of this week is to bring awareness to the public regarding the harmful effects of invasive species around our state. Invasive species are non-native species that inhabit a new environment, causing harm to that new environment. Not all non-native species are considered invasive. In order to classify a species as invasive, it can cause ecological, social, human health, and or economic damage. Invasive species often spread unintentionally through human activity. The trade of goods around the world is one of the primary sources of invasive species transfer. Cargo ships for instance can carry aquatic invasive species in their ballast tanks or insects in their shipping containers. Once established in these new environments invasive species can spread quickly because these ecosystems often have no natural predators or control. The presence of these hitchhikers is one of the leading threats to our native species and ecosystems. By out-competing, preying upon native species or carrying disease, invasive species can be detrimental to native species and the biodiversity of natural habitats.
Water chestnut (Trapa natans) is a submerged rooted plant that can densely cover shallow areas. This not only deprives the water from dissolved oxygen and other essential nutrients, but can also get tangled in boats, swimmers, and fishing line. On an economic stand point, aquatic invasive species like water chestnut, if not treated, can lower shoreline property values. Photo by: By Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Invasive species come from near and far and affect all types of habitats found throughout New York State. Since many of our commercial, agricultural, and recreational activities are dependent on a healthy native ecosystem the presence of invasive species can impact all people and the natural world. Aquatic invasive species such as hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), water chestnut (Trapa natans) or zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have inhabited many of New York’s water ways. On land, species such as Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), can overcrowd native environments.
How you can help!
Boaters/Anglers Wash and dry your boat properly. Be sure to remove all plant matter from boat, ballast, prop, trailer and all equipment. Dispose debris correctly. Use aquatic invasive species disposal station if available.
Campers/Hikers/Bikers Check clothing, boots, pets, and camping gear for seeds, plant matter and insects. Clean gear and dispose of debris properly. Use local firewood.
Gardeners Plant only native plants. Educate yourself and others about the importance of using native species. There are many native look-alikes that are just as beautiful.
Whether you are a boater, fisherman, hiker, gardener or simply a concerned citizen, it is important to educate yourself and others on the different species found in your home state. You can make a difference in stopping the spread of invasives! Here you can find information on invasive species found in the State of New York.
Many State Parks have events during New York Invasive Species Awareness Week to involve the public in preventing the spread of invasive species.
Learn more by contacting your local PRISM! Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management for more information on Invasive Species.
Are invasive species interrupting your boating and fishing experience? Did you know that if you conduct a quick inspection of your watercraft before and after each use and remove invasive species, you are helping protect and maintain our beautiful waterways? Did you know that many of the invasive species found on boats during inspections out-compete native species, displace waterfowl, decrease the size of sportfish, hinder recreational boating experiences, and damage our environment?
Over the summer, State Parks will have 15 Boat Stewards (Stewards) at many of our boat launches along Lake Erie, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, Finger Lakes, and Saratoga Lake. The Stewards will conduct educational boat inspections to provide step-by-step instructions on ways you can effectively inspect your boat and dispose of invasive species. These demonstrations are both free and voluntary.
The New York State Park’s Boat Steward Program is one of many boat steward programs throughout New York State. These programs provide targeted educational programming to increase awareness about aquatic invasive species and other environmentally significant issues. When you come across a red-shirted Boat Steward please stop and ask us any questions you may have.
Stewards participate in periodic educational events, festivals, and invasive species removal projects, such as water chestnut pulls. Also, feel free to follow us on the Boat Steward Blog. Stewards will be writing about their experiences and findings as the summer goes on.