Thursday, October 27, 2011

MillionTreesNYC Proposed Planting Raises Concerns In Great Kills Park's Crooke's Point

Crooke's Point reaches around the eastern edge of Great Kills Harbor. (Photo: Coast Guard Auxiliary)

Staten Island

Federal and city parks officials want to plant trees — lots of them — at ecologically sensitive Crooke’s Point in Great Kills Park, as part of MillionTreesNYC, according to the Staten Island Advance.

But Staten Island environmentalists question the viability of the plan, and suggest the National Park Service lacks the smarts to pull off the project, which will see around a thousand plantings in a one-acre pilot area.

For one thing, the Islanders say there is no way the trees will make it without a small army of volunteers to keep them watered.

“I don’t think this project is going to work,” said Ellen Pratt of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. “No one will go out and water the plants.”

This as a spokesman for NPS — which has taken the lead on the project — says the agency will “deliberately overplant because some will die.”

For another, Islanders say NPS’s plan to use bulldozers and pesticides to kill off invasive species in order to plant the trees should be a non-starter.

Yet John Warren, an NPS spokesman for Gateway National Recreation Area, said “machinery and herbicides are consistent with NPS policy and regulations,” although he noted that it must be OKd under NPS’s “integrated pest management plan” and abide by New York state laws and regulations. He also said “no specific herbicide has been chosen” yet.

But the Islanders say that’s only because they objected to the type of herbicide NPS initially suggested.

“There was no expertise in the room,” said St. George botanist Richard Lynch of a meeting of NPS, city Parks personnel and local environmentalists, held after the Islanders caught wind of the plan. “The last thing you go to are chemicals, and they are unyielding on spraying.”

Indeed, Ed Johnson, science director at the Staten Island Museum, said some herbicide sprays suggested by NPS cannot be used in wetland areas.

Not only that, Lynch, Johnson and Ms. Pratt said mammals native to Crooke’s Point, such as cottontail rabbits, raccoons, white-footed mice and the occasional white-tailed deer, will be driven off. Ospreys and hummingbirds that nest at the spot may also be impacted, they contend.

But Warren said it is “NPS policy to replace non-native and invasive species with native species whenever possible and practical ... The entire New York area is important to the migration of birds along the Atlantic Flyway ... By introducing native species, we [will] create greater diversity in Crooke’s Point wildlife, from bugs to birds ... The work that will take place will be done in stages so as not to displace an entire habitat or population. It will be temporary and minimally disruptive.”

He also said NPS has protocol in place to protect osprey habitats.

Still, said Johnson: “National Parks wants to restore things to 100 years ago. But is it necessary? Is it practical? Can it even be done? It’s a labor-intensive plan, with volunteers [doing the watering]. Can Parks follow through?”

Even the kinds of trees that will be planted seem to be in dispute, with Ms. Pratt saying NPS hasn’t been forthcoming.

“I felt like I was watching a tennis tournament,” said Lynch, of all the back-and-forth at a recent meeting.

Lynch said what should be planted in the area are post oak, blackjack oak, sour gum and persimmon trees.

Yet Warren said that “typical plants for a barrier ecology in the northeast might include red cedar, oak, holly, bayberry and beach plum,” but said “specific plants will depend upon soil analysis and drainage of a particular area.”

Countered Ms. Pratt: “Plants don’t belong there. The site, as it now exists, is wonderful, full of invasive vines that are full of very rich food for birds while providing shelter. It is going to destroy the ecosystem.”

While local environmentalists told the Advance that NPS indicated the project could begin as early as spring, Warren said there is no timeline, adding, “We would like to have consensus on a plan within a year.”

Said city Parks spokeswoman Tara Kiernan: “The plan for Crooke’s Point is simply a proposal that the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the National Park Service is reviewing and there are no definite plans to move forward with the project. Both agencies have taken the community’s concerns into consideration.”

Warren said the cost of the project is being picked up by MillionTreesNYC.

The projected amount could not be immediately learned.

Meanwhile, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods is sponsoring two on-site walks — on Sunday at 10 a.m. and on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. — for Islanders who want to learn more about the natural preserve.

A forum on the issue will be held at the Staten Island Zoo on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.

For further information, consult

Read More:

Staten Island Advance - October 27, 2011 - By Judy L. Randall

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