Tag Archives: robert moses state park

Recovering After The Storm

In 2012, one of the largest weather events in New York’s recorded history swept across the state’s southeastern border. Superstorm Sandy’s wrath bore down as counties upstate and on Long Island were still recovering from the devastating flood waters and wind damage brought by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late summer 2011. Fourteen counties were declared federal disaster areas, thousands of lives were affected, countless miles of roads closed or washed out, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed by storm surge and catastrophic flooding. However, in typical New York style, once the storm subsided, people from across the state came together to begin the recovery effort.

Five years after the storms, the state is continuing to invest funds in order to ensure that New York is more resilient and better prepared to withstand future storm impacts. Although most of the attention has understandably focused on housing reconstruction and high-profile infrastructure proposals, there is a quieter, but no less critical story to be told, about our State Parks. Led by the tireless efforts of Governor Andrew Cuomo, state government has worked closely with local governments and community organizations to make the state park system more resilient than ever.

According to a recent report by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), the state has received over $4 billion in Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The CDBG-DR program was implemented by HUD in the 1970s to promote long-term recovery efforts in communities affected by disasters. Through this program, managed by GOSR, approximately $111 million of these funds have been invested toward resiliency improvements at four State Park facilities – Robert Moses, Jones Beach and Hempstead Lake State Parks on Long Island, and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.

One of the jewels of the state park system, Jones Beach State Park on Long Island’s south shore welcomes nearly six million visitors to swim, sunbathe, recreate and relax at its white sandy beaches every year. Less than 20 miles from New York City, the park is a vital public resource for the millions of residents and visitors in the community. During Sandy, the park suffered significant damage to its buildings and infrastructure. Thanks to $4 million in grant funding from GOSR, State Parks will be able to upgrade the park’s drainage infrastructure to slow down and filter stormwater runoff and help improve water quality at the popular Zach’s Bay swimming area. The project also includes funding to install flood resistant doors and windows on select buildings with critical infrastructure. Further, by incorporating native plantings and continuing to conserve the large natural areas in the park, the landscape can better buffer the impacts of storms on facilities in the park and around the bay.

DSC_0371A
Volunteers plant beach grass at Jones Beach State Park.

Robert Moses State Park, located on the western end of Fire Island, is best known for its five miles of public beaches which receive over four million visitors a year. The beaches and dunes on barrier islands, like those at Jones Beach or Robert Moses, serve as a crucial buffer between the open ocean and the coastal towns, helping to reduce the damaging effects that can occur during storm events. The natural habitats, animals, and plants of these places are adapted to the changing shoreline and the movement of sand, but roads and homes are not. During Sandy, Robert Moses State Park experienced severe erosion of its beaches from wind, waves, and heavy surf. Though nature would likely restore these beaches over time, there was high risk of damage to roads and buildings in the park.  Grant funds through the CDBG-DR program helped stabilize these vulnerable areas of the park by nourishing those sections of beaches to return them to their pre-storm conditions. Additional CDBG-DR funding will also go toward replacing the park’s existing water treatment plant with a newer, more flood-resistant facility elevated above the current flood zone.

Improvements are also underway at Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx, which spans 25 acres along the Harlem River in the Morris Heights neighborhood. The park provides recreational facilities for underserved communities in the region in addition to serving as a coastal barrier for residents and local infrastructure, including the nearby River Park Towers residential complex and an adjacent Metro North station. During Sandy, floodwaters rose to more than three feet above the park’s 40-year-old bulkhead, damaging the park’s lower plaza and esplanade. CDBG-DR funds will be used to give this critical neighborhood gathering place a much-needed makeover. The outdated bulkhead will be replaced, and the esplanade will be rebuilt with modern infrastructure elements and green design (including landscaping with plants native to this area). These efforts will create a more stable, resilient shoreline and park facility.

Project Map
Improvements to Hempstead Lake State Park, image courtesy of Stantec

Finally, plans are under development to invest $35 million in CDBG-DR funds at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island, as part of the larger $125 million Living with the Bay project. The Living with the Bay project aims to connect communities along Nassau County’s Mill River watershed and strategically install protective measures to help mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and enhance the overall ecology from Hempstead Lake State Park to the South Shore Estuary. As part of the overall project, major improvements will be made to the park, including rehabilitating a century-old dam and non-functional control systems, renovating multi-use trails, constructing fishing piers and boat launches, dredging park ponds (to increase water storage capacity during flood events), and constructing a “floatables catcher” to help capture trash that flows into the park during heavy rain events.  A multi-purpose educational facility will also be constructed and will serve as a coordination center during emergencies.

Storms are a natural and often necessary part of maintaining our coastal ecosystems, but can be devastating to our homes, our communities, and businesses. Although New York has made tremendous progress recovering from the damages suffered during Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, there is still more work to be done. Governor Cuomo, recognizing the value of our parks to the state’s economy and to the health and well-being of its residents, has helped marshal the resources the agency needs for both immediate rebuilding and more strategic long-term recovery efforts. New York will continue to invest in its state parks to help us continue to become more resilient and able to meet the challenges yet to come.

Post by Ben Mattison, Excelsior Fellow, State Parks

 

Parks Goes Solar

As we celebrate Earth Day we’d like to tell you a little bit about some of the projects our Energy & Sustainability Office is working on that benefit the environment. Particularly we’d like to tell you how they are developing renewable energy projects all across the state. State Parks has developed several solar arrays over the last few years. Solar arrays use panels to catch sunlight. You’ve probably seen them on the roofs of houses in your neighborhood or maybe even your own house. The panels catch the light from the sun and turn that into electricity for use in the house or building.

NYS Parks has completed 13 solar installation projects to date. Our goals is use the sun to power part or all of our Parks. As a result of their work State Parks is recognized as the leading renewable energy agency in the state. Most installations were completed by trained in-house State Parks employees after they went through a solar power training course at HVCC. By training employees to install solar arrays, Parks is able to save money and give employees the opportunity to learn valuable skills that give them a better understanding of the project. State Parks currently has about 50 staff members with this training and continues to train more each year.

Beginning in 2012 with the construction of the rooftop array on the Niagara Falls Discovery Center State Parks renewable energy projects have grown in number and size. State Parks Staff have installed arrays in several parks across the state including, Niagara Falls, Letchworth, Robert Moses, and Grafton Lakes.

The 13th solar installation was at Robert Moses State Park in Long Island, and will become the first energy neutral State Park in the United States. The nearly 700 kilowatt solar array will save more than $100,000 each year. Built with 2,432 panels, this pole-mounted array is located in the back of parking field 4 of Robert Moses State Park. The solar panels are made in the United States by SolarWorld and supplied by National Solar Technology in Buffalo. This is the largest solar installation by State employees in the State’s history.

Currently Parks is installing a new solar system with a 144 kW capacity at the headquarters of the Historic Preservation Office, Peebles Island State Park in Cohoes. The array will account for more than 20% of the electricity used by the complex. Parks is also constructing a solar array on the roof of the Bathhouse at Lake Taghkanic State Park.  This 40kW solar array will provide more than 25% of the buildings electric need.

Happy Earth Day!

Niagara
Niagara Falls Discovery Center System Output: 8.74 kW Annual Output: 10,940 kWh, photo by State Parks
Letchworth
Letchworth Visitors Center System Output: 25 kW Annual Output: 29,200 kWh, photo by State Parks
Robert Moses
Robert Moses State Park, Field 4 System Output: 693.12 kW Annual Output: 920,000 kWh, photo by State Parks

 

 

Sand: The Beaches’ Hidden Treasures

Fourth of July is nearly upon us and it is time to hit the beach!  And beaches mean sand – sand to build sand castles, sand that tickles your toes during beach strolls, and sand for beach volleyball and bocce.

But what is beach sand?  According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, sand is “a loose granular material that results from the disintegration of rocks, consists of particles smaller than gravel but coarser than silt.”  These small particles are less than 1/10th of an inch in diameter.  The mineral makeup of individual sand particles depends on local and regional rocks, which are eroded by ice and rain, then carried to the ocean by rivers where they are deposited on gently sloping beaches. The size of individual sand particles is dependent on the slope of the beach, both above and below waterline. The color of beach sand is influenced by nearby landscapes and ocean bottom.

In New York, many beaches have a variety of minerals including quartz, white or clear particles; feldspar, buff-colored particles; and magnetite, black particles.  On beaches around the world you will find lava (black beaches), coral (pink beaches), garnet (purple beaches), olivine crystals (green beaches) and more. Some beaches have unique sand such as the orange Kerala coast beach sand in India.

New York State Parks have over 65 beaches on lakes, ponds, rivers, bays, and the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s take a closer look at the sands on a few of those beaches …

Along Lake Erie

Evangola Beach Sand

The sand on the beach at Evangola State Park in southern Erie County is principally quartz, feldspar, magnetite, with smaller amounts of garnet, calcite, ilmenite, and hornblende.  All of the particles are approximately the same size.

Along Lake Ontario

Hamlin_Beach Sand

Located northwest of Rochester, Hamlin Beach State Park beach sands are mostly quartz, hypersthene (brown and gray), and augite (greenish).

On Long Island

Jones_Beach Sand A

Jones Beach State Park has 6-1/2 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline; different sections of beach have slightly different sands.  Some parts of the beach have sand that is mostly comprised of quartz with a little feldspar and tiny shell fragments.  Note that the clear quartz particles have different sizes.

Jones_Beach Sand B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other sections of beach at Jones Beach State Park have quartz, garnet, and magnetite sand with a few tiny shell fragments. All of the particles are about the same size.

Robert_Moses Sand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beach at Robert Moses State Park, also on the Atlantic Ocean side, is mixture of quartz, garnet, magnetite, and shells. The shell in the photo is about 1/3” long; larger glass piece is about 1/6” long.

Napeague_Beach Sand

The beaches on the north side of Napeague State Park and Hither Hills State Park are along Napeague Bay. Here the sands contain magnetite and garnet which give the sand a purplish hue.

Bring your magnifying glass the next time you head to a NYS Parks beach.  You might be surprised at what you see when you take an up-close look at the sand.

Thanks for Anne McIntyre, Dave McQuay, and Megan Philips for their help with collecting sand samples for this article.

Post and sand photos by Susan Carver, OPRHP.

Learn more at:

Coastal Care: http://coastalcare.org/2010/10/dream-in-color-on-the-worlds-rainbow-beaches/

International Sand Collector’s Society: http://www.sandcollectors.org/SANDMAN/The_Hobby_of_x.html

Sand Atlas: http://www.sandatlas.org/sand-types/

Pilkey, Orrin H., William J Neal, Joseph T. Kelley, & J. Andrew G. Cooper; The World’s Beaches : A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline; University of California Press, Berkeley, 2011.