As we draw closer to the end of the year, it is a natural time to take a moment to reflect on accomplishments and celebrate the triumphs we’ve achieved together. Diversity and collaboration builds strength and resiliency in both the natural world and in conservation work.
Partnering to Collect Important Data
Several Public Conservation Areas are now part of important regional data collection efforts. In our last update, we described CLC’s participation in an Environmental Management and Monitoring Alliance (EMMA) network study on non-chemical methods for treating invasive Japanese stiltgrass at Greenport Conservation Area. Preliminary results indicate that hand-pulling and flame weeding are the most effective methods for managing this incredibly invasive plant, which can completely take over the understory of a forest ecosystem and drive out native vegetation.
At Schor Conservation Area, a weather station has been installed and is now broadcasting weather conditions for local residents while contributing information about wind speed, precipitation, and more to EMMA databases. This kind of record-keeping will be essential as the climate continues to change.
CLC is also working to install plots to Assess Vegetation for Impacts from Deer (AVID) at several locations as staff consider ways to refine and improve the deer hunting program. AVID plots will help the Public Conservation Area team to assess damage from deer and make management decisions about the hunting program.
Providing Opportunities to Connect to Nature
A number of education and outreach efforts are in progress to provide community members with more ways to engage in nature. Visitors to Public Conservation Areas this fall will notice several improvements to signage and wayfinding throughout the Conservation Areas. Thanks to a grant from the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, CLC was able to purchase new kiosks for five Conservation Areas (Greenport, Hand Hollow, High Falls, Ooms, and Overmountain) and design new signage for those kiosks and throughout the sites.
All of the new materials have been designed to increase accessibility and comfort on the trails. Maps and site signage were designed in accordance with the National Parks Service’s Accessibility guidelines, and print maps meet the large print standards. Signs depicting site rules and features have been translated into Spanish, and also make use of symbology to communicate. We’ve also created a new brochure with descriptions of all the sites.
If you are not able make it to a Public Conservation Area this fall but would still like to explore virtually, you can now take a tour on TravelStorys! These self-guided audio and visual tours are free and can be accessed via the TravelStorys website or by downloading the free TravelStorys app. You can also use the tours while on visiting the sites in person, of course! We suggest downloading the tours before you leave home.
Nature Quest trails are coming to the Public Conservation Areas! A grant from the Land Trust Alliance has made it possible for CLC’s education staff to create and install family-friendly interpretive materials at each site. Nature Quest trails will be located along currently-existing trails, which have been selected for maximum accessibility for strollers and small legs, and each trail will have a theme determined by the site’s ecological characteristics. Education staff are currently in the process of planning and designing these materials, with a plan to have them up and running next summer. Columbia County’s libraries are essential partners in the Nature Quest program. Several will be hosting displays featuring information about Nature Quest in their libraries, and CLC will be working with the libraries to jointly offer public programs about Nature Quest in the future.
Libraries will also serve as gateways to exploring the outdoors this fall. The same grant funding the Nature Quest initiative is also supporting the expansion of the Nature Explorer Backpack program begun with the Hudson Area Library two years ago. Thanks to this support, families will be able to check out nature-themed backpacks from more libraries throughout the County and take them on adventures! Themes include Insects, Streams and Ponds, Birding, the Night Sky, and Taking a Hike. Participating libraries include the Chatham Public Library, Claverack Library, Germantown Library, Hudson Area Library, Kinderhook Memorial Library, Livingston Free Library, New Lebanon Library, Philmont Library, Roeliff Jansen Community Library and the Valatie Free Library.
Volunteers Caring for Land
Despite conditions that made it difficult to get together in person or host large group gatherings, volunteers put their hands (and paddles, and phones!) to work in meaningful ways. For the sixth year in a row, volunteers hauled kayaks to Hand Hollow Conservation Area’s Meizinger Lake and took to the water to remove invasive water chestnuts. Thanks to their efforts and a grant that allowed CLC to contract with a floating tractor, this weed has been almost completely eradicated!
Volunteers are not just getting rid of plants, though – they’re making it possible for more to grow. This fall, CLC piloted a new volunteer seed collection program. Two trainings were hosted at Chatham Public Library, followed by a field workshop at Greenport Conservation Area. These sessions focused on plant identification, seed collection techniques, and protocols for contributing seeds to the project via the drop-off station at Chatham Public Library. The seeds will be used for future restoration projects at Public Conservation Areas.
Just like collecting and storing seeds, supporting CLC’s work in Columbia County makes an impact now and long into the future. You are a vital part of our community of donors, volunteers, and friends making that future one we can all look forward to.