Tag Archives: Grafton Lakes State Park

On the Front Lines in the Battle Against Invasive Species: Strike Teams!

Invasive Species Strike Teams are an important part of environmental stewardship; they are the protectors and defenders of our native plants and wildlife! Invasive plants are fast spreading and can create ecological changes that crowd out native plants and alter habitats to make them unsuitable for native insects or animals. The goal of the strike teams is to manually remove these plants in areas of significance to protect our native biological diversity. A diverse landscape is healthier and more robust, better able to fend off threats and adapt smoothly to changes, such as climate change.

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Above: Our 2014 Western Strike Team in Letchworth State Park, showing off all their hard work removing Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Japanese barberry is a commonly planted ornamental which escapes into forest understories and increases incidence of Lyme disease.

What is a Strike Team anyway?

The New York State Parks Invasive Species Strike Teams consist of seasonal employees who travel throughout New York State to remove invasive plants from the most valuable areas of our Parks. These teams of four camp near their project areas to accomplish the goals of the Invasive Species Program. All these removals are done with manual hand tools, such as pick mattocks, shovels, machetes and loppers. Our strike teams are always up for the physical challenge and have made incredible headway against some large opponents.

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Above: A strike team member from 2012 who proudly showcases the large autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) he removed with hand tools, determination and brute strength. Machinery is used to remove large shrubs, but our strike team got there first in this case!

What are the goals?

Invasive Species Program staff has had many successes in controlling invasive species  by carefully selecting projects geared toward terrestrial invasives, which can be controlled manually and through adaptive management.

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Above: The 2015 Eastern Strike Team wishing everyone well from Grafton Lakes State Park, outside of Albany. You can see some of our most often used tools in this photo (From L-R: the ax mattock, pick mattock and loppers), as you can see, other essential elements in their toolbox include the hard hat and gloves!

Accomplishments

Starting in 2008, six interns and volunteers assisted with invasive species removals state wide. Since 2010, State Parks has employed 46 seasonal staff to remove invasive species. In the past 5 years over 1100 new observation points were entered into the program iMap Invasives, a national database reflecting new sightings of invasives. On average, strike teams remove 19 different species per year at their project sites. Some of the native species which are protected by the invasive species program include: twinleaf, American Hart’s tongue fern, sky blue aster, cardinal flower, Chittenango ovate amber snail, the Karner blue butterfly, several warbler species, mountain mint, bushy cinquefoil, and slender blazing star.

Above: Two examples of native plants which benefit from strike team controls. On the left, the spring flowering twin leaf (Jeffersonia diphylla). On the right, the stunning late summer red of the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), a plant loved by pollinators.

One of the best ways to reduce invasive species is avoid introducing them in the first place. Please check what is planted ornamentally in your yard and remove plants or shrubs which are invasive and replace them with natives. Learn more information about New York’s invasive species on the NYS DECs Prohibited and Regulated Invasive Species List

For more information regarding Invasive Species Awareness Week (July 12-18) events, check out the New York Invasive Species Information Blog.

Post by Alyssa Reid, Minnewaska State Park Preserve (OPRHP). Photos courtesy of OPRHP.

 

Explore NYS Parks’ Waterways

Now that the ice is finally gone and the water is warming up, those of us who love paddling are heading out to our favorite spots. Where better than to check out the ponds, lakes, and waterways than in New York State Parks? Whether just for exercise or to enjoy the sun and sky while paddling across the water, getting out in your kayak or canoe is a chance to relax and see a little of the world that can only be experienced from the water.

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Kayakers at Grafton Lakes State Park. Photo courtesy of OPRHP.
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Life vests are also available for pets! Photo by Lilly Schelling, OPRHP.

The Marine Services Bureau of State Parks has just conducted training for Park staff who will be offering American Canoe Association kayaking lessons and tours in parks this summer.  Check out for their kayak program schedules.

Marine Services Bureau is also hosting two paddling events.  W.O.W. (Wear it On the Water) Paddle Fest will be held in two locationson Saturday, July 11 at Gilbert Lake State Park and Saturday, August 15 at Fair Haven Beach State Park.  This free event will feature free kayaking lessons, a Life Jacket Flash Mob, and Sport Fishing Clinics along with other family fun and friendly activities to help you enjoy the water.

Whether exploring for turtles, watching for osprey, fishing, or listening for the slap of a beaver’s tail, we want to remind you to be mindful of the safety of yourself and others who are paddling with you.  Take a free online paddle safety course at www.paddlecourse.com.  Don’t pack it, but wear your life jacket, be boat sober, and leave a float plan letting someone know where you are paddling and when you will return.

Marine Services Bureau encourages all paddlers to obtain an IF FOUND Sticker to identify your boat.  Write your name, cell phone and alternative phone number on the sticker and affix to your boat.  It’s a great way to return a lost boat or help law enforcement rescue a capsized kayaker.  Get your IF FOUND sticker by sending a legal sized self-addressed stamped envelope to NYS Parks, Marine Services Bureau, IF FOUND Sticker, Albany, NY 12238.

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Photo by Ro Woodard, OPRHP.

So grab your life jacket and paddle and head out to the nearest lake or pond to enjoy the serenity and natural surprises that are just a paddle away.

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Post by Ro Woodard, Marine Services Bureau (OPRHP).

Spring Tales About Springtails: Friends, Not Fleas!

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Garden Springtail found in New York State. They’re not all this cute, but we want you to like them. From http://bugguide.net/node/view/652904.

Have you even been walking in the woods in late winter and seen a cluster of what look like fleas on the top of the snow?  You’ve probably thought “eww!” and hurried on your way to escape an itchy outcome. The truth is that these so-called “snow fleas” pose no danger to you or your furry pets.  You’re actually meeting one of the many species of Springtails, an order of arthropods that can be found on every continent, including Antarctica.  These incredibly abundant creatures may leap, but they are not biting fleas. They actually consume leaf litter, fungi, and even other smaller creatures.  Despite their tiny size, their existence may provide remarkable benefits that extend to you and me.

Springtails have six legs and antennas, but they are not classified as insects. Unlike insects, they have internal mouthparts and are wingless.   The spring in their step comes from a furcula, which is the springy two-pronged “tail” for which these fascinating creatures are named. It normally lies tucked under their abdomen. When escaping predators, the furcula is released almost instantly, and it vaults them up to 10 centimeters, which is no joke when your size maxes out at half a centimeter in length.

With 100,000 found in one square meter of forest, it is clear that these critters form a substantial base of the food web on the forest floor.  The red eft, the teenage stage of the red spotted newt, considers the springtails an ideal meal for their little mouths.  Even the harvestman, more commonly called “daddy long-legs,” preys upon the springtail.

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The brilliant red efts you see on rainy days are prowling about for the Springtails, a little meal just right for their little mouths. Photo by Lily Schelling (OPRHP), taken at Thacher State Park.

Why should you care about these creatures?  They eat pathogenic fungi that can damage many agricultural crops. They also help spread the spores of mycorrhiza (fungi), whose symbiotic relationship with plants allow for an incredible array of plants to thrive, from wheat to beech trees.   The variety of Springtail that is sometimes called a “snow flea” is also a focus of biomedical research.  Scientists are trying to replicate the anti-freeze protein found in those ever-active Springtails in winter, and use it to aid the transition of body organs for transplant from donor to recipient.

We know nature’s ability to relax and soothe us in the midst of our busy lives, with scenic views and outstretched tree limbs. However the next time you take a walk in the woods, take a moment to appreciate the unseen world under your feet as well. It turns out that even the largely invisible, creepy-crawly world of wildlife in the woods may have myriad benefits for humanity.

A mass of live springtails in early spring. Photo by Greg Edinger, NYNHP.
A mass of live springtails in early spring. Photo by Greg Edinger, NYNHP.

 

Post by Liz Wagner, Grafton Lakes State Park.

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Friend Snowmobiling Day

Want to learn how you can explore New York’s more than 10,000 miles of snowmobile trails this winter? The New York State Snowmobile Association and Grafton Trail Blazers snowmobile club are teaming up with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation at the Grafton Lakes State Park 30th Annual Winter Festival Saturday, January 24th, for “Take a Friend Snowmobiling” day.  The event is a demonstration of the basics of snowmobile operation and ownership.

The New York State snowmobile trail system crisscrosses 45 counties through woods, fields, towns and our State Parks.  Snowmobiling is a fun, family-friendly way to enjoy winter scenery and wildlife, especially for those with physical conditions or disabilities preventing more strenuous activities like skiing and snowshoeing.  The “Take a Friend Snowmobiling” event is a great introduction to the sport for new riders or reintroduction for those who haven’t been on a snowmobile in years, and an opportunity for current snowmobilers to meet and share their interests.

Representatives from the New York State Parks Snowmobile Unit, the State Snowmobile Association, and the Grafton Trail Blazers snowmobile club will be on hand to answer all of your snowmobiling questions and provide short demonstration rides, conditions permitting.

The event will be held at the playground near the main parking lot from 11:00am to 3:00pm.  Necessary equipment will be provided, but participants are urged to dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions.  Anyone age 16 and older is welcome to join (if conditions permit snowmobile operation, youth ages 16-17 must have a valid safety certificate to operate). Another “Take a Friend Snowmobiling” event will be held at Delta Lake State Park on February 8th, with more details to be announced.

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Jim MacFarland and Bennett Campbell from the OPRHP Snowmobiling Unit hit the trails near Old Forge.

Click here to view the full Winter Festival schedule of events.

Click here for more information on other Take a Friend Snowmobiling events. 

Click here to visit the NYS Parks website for more information about snowmobiling in New York, including a free Snowmobiler’s Guide.

NYSOPRHP recommends all snowmobilers attend a certified New York State snowmobiling safety course, and never drink & ride!

Post by Bennett Campbell, photo by John Rozell.