Stripes and Song Sparrows: The Last Week in the Field with the Sandy Leader Crew

The SCA Sandy Recovery Leader Crew has come to a close… a month goes by way too quickly! It’s truly been an amazing, inspiring experience for me. For the final week of the crew, we switched things around, and split the two teams up. My crew continued work in Riis Landing, while Eric’s crew worked on getting the old Floyd Bennett Field Ranger station up and running, as well as cleaning up Plum Beach, another Gateway NRA site affected by Sandy.

The next step for post-Sandy improvements at Riis Landing included an unbelievable amount of painting and measuring, during one of the most humid weeks yet. With the expertise of one of our NPS partners, Chris, we measured spots and painted lines on nearly the entire Riis Landing parking area. Since there was no line-painting machine available, we resorted to manual hand painting with the use of templates Chris created for us from plywood. It took awhile to get everything measured out and ready to go, but once everything was laid out, we flew through the process of painting the lines. Our goal was to have enough lines painted by Tuesday – when there was a party on the American Princess for the superintendent’s retirement – so that visitors could park in the spots and see the progress. We accomplished a good deal by Tuesday, and our work definitely made an impression at the event. In addition, we painted railings on the American Princess’s dock and also the wooden fence that leads to the same dock. (I’m fairly certain my crew will now be having dreams of painting white lines and gray railings!)

While we worked, we watched from a distance as a mother song sparrow swooped in and out of the nearby trees, bringing food to her young. We had first spotted the nest on our initial visit to Riis Landing, and one of the park biologists identified it as the nest of a song sparrow, a native bird with a beautiful song. We taped the area off, and took alternate routes to our work sites so that the nest would be left undisturbed. Magically, through chainsaws, trucks, and loud people nearby, at least two of the eggs hatched – a Leader Team member peered over the edge of the nest and spotted the hatchlings last week. Team members became increasingly interested in the hatchlings’ survival as the weeks continued – and on this last week they were still going strong. Nature is resilient. Even through natural and human alterations to the environment, life still thrives.

On Friday, the teams joyfully reunited and completed painting the outside of the old Ranger Station. Once this was completed (quite quickly!), we had a Leader Team cook-out to end a successful NYC Sandy Recovery Leader Crew! This past month has been unbelievable. Looking at what the team has accomplished to help Gateway NRA recover from the effects of Superstorm Sandy in such a short period of time is inspiring. I’m looking forward to switching my role to be a support for these members as they move into their high school crew leader positions!