Well it’s that time of year again when corps members and project leaders reminisce about ole times, depart, and wish each other fond farewells. The Gateway NPC summer team had a memorable and wonderful time at Sandy Hook. They removed a record-breaking 9,516 invasive plants—5 mimosa trees, 14 Japanese black pine trees, 2,778 shrubs of autumn olive, and 6,719 trees of heaven—covering 36.3acres of land! During their last week at Sandy Hook, the team created maps of their work sites, removed limbed trees from the work sites, treated invasive plants that were overlooked, and gave the toolshed and agency vehicle a good cleaning. Also the team visited last fall’s project sites and found that none of the treated Ailanthus stumps had resprouts! The team went to two farewell/end-of-season dinners—one hosted by the agency partner at the restaurant Casa Comida and the other a potluck dinner where everyone made their favorite dish. John made delicious mozzarella and bacon balls; Mason made appetizing enchiladas; Bobby made a refreshing fruit salad; and Susan baked scrumptious biscuits and a savory tomato and goat cheese galette. It was a grand feast! Excellent food, good company, and praiseworthy hard work—a great way to end the season!
Next to the tree of heaven, autumn olive was public enemy number one on Team Gateway’s least wanted invasive plant list. The multi-use path (MUP) and the fields next to the Sandy Hook lighthouse were thick with autumn olive shrubs. The team had to search for the shrubs which were scattered in the fields and along the MUP. Although it seemed like there was not much of the plant, Gateway NPC summer crew removed a total of 2,127 shrubs of autumn olive and 117 trees of heaven!
After finishing up Fee Plaza, Gateway NPC blazed through the next sites—Parking Lot E and the medians north of the Ranger Station. Corps members John and Mason were the hitch leaders at the two sites and spent a total of three days at the sites. Even though it took less time to finish these sites, the poison ivy at E Lot was massive and more difficult to maneuver through than at Fee. But Team Gateway stood their ground and removed and treated 238 trees of heaven at E Lot and 195 shrubs of autumn olive at the Ranger Station medians.
Team Gateway’s biggest project, in size and amount of invasive species and poison ivy, was at Fee Plaza, located at the entrance to the park. Tree of heaven, Japanese knotweed, Japanese black pine, and mimosa were among the many invasive plants at Fee Plaza. The team did cut stump treatment of over 6,300 trees of heaven, six pine trees, five mimosa trees, and less than an acre of Japanese knotweed. Overall the team was excellent at tackling this prodigious task set before them.
Among the team’s many work projects was shorebird protection and monitoring along the beaches of Sandy Hook, a significant migratory stop for over 300 bird species along the Atlantic Flyway. Every other weekend, the team protected the nesting areas of the federally threatened and state endangered piping plover, the endangered least tern, black skimmer, and oystercatcher. During a few weekdays, the Gateway NPC also canoed to Skeleton Island and assisted the SCA shorebird interns in monitoring. It was a much-needed change in pace from invasive plant removal and offered opportunities for the team to perform public outreach.
After meeting with the NJ Green Team at Outdoor Nation, Gateway corps members invited them to Sandy Hook for an Environmental Education Day. When word got out that Team Gateway was planning an EE Day, the SCA high school crew from Newark was also interested in participating! About a week before the NJ crews’ arrival, Gateway NPC brainstormed ideas and potential sites for the EE day which became their mid-season, community outreach project. On that day, about 33 SCA leaders and members from Newark and northwestern NJ arrived for the fun, education, and the beach. Team Gateway gave a nature walk at the Holly Forest, the largest of its kind on the East Coast, and a scavenger hunt at Fort Hancock. The visiting crews also played Ninja with prizes for the winners. Afterwards the crews had lunch and went to the beach. It was great but exhausting day, and in the afternoon Gateway returned to work to finish up at Fee Plaza.
At last, Team Gateway had a project site that had no poison ivy! At least they thought so until they ran into its vines crawling up the trees. However there were no WALLS of poison ivy that the crew was used to at Fee Plaza! With the help of Program Coordinator Mike Stefancic, the crew removed and treated over 400 shrubs of autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) in the south fields of North Maintenance. At the end of the day, they finished the site and it was a job well done!!!
On June 24-26th, Team Gateway had the honor of attending Outdoor Nation’s Northeast Regional Summit in Brooklyn. During those three days, the team met with other SCA crews and youth from other environmental and outdoor organizations, such as Parks & People Foundation, REI, and state and national parks, to identify important outdoor /environmental regional issues, share ideas, and create solutions to get youth connected to the outdoors. Gateway NPC and about 200 participants received training and formed groups to create project proposals that would compete for grant money. Susan, Mason, and Bobby were part of the groups whose projects were chosen to receive that grant money. Susan’s group developed a project that aimed to “Create a mentorship program specifically geared towards breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Designed & run by youth to educate, expose, and instill leadership skills but also create a sense of ownership within their communities & destroy unspoken segregation rules of green spaces.” Mason and Bobby’s group formed a project to “Start an outdoor club in school that will receive camping/outdoor materials in order to get students interacting with the environment and learning how to use these donated materials.” Also, SCA was part of the ON University Training Session about team building. SCA crew/project leaders talked about SCA history and their experiences, partnership, team building, engaging youth from diverse backgrounds, and opportunities for grant money and creating a team. Susan spoke about her experience at New York State Green Conservation Corps, partnership, and successes at Gateway. With two days held indoors and filled with brainstorming and idea swapping, everyone was ready to Get The Fun Outdoors at Summer Fun Day on Sunday. There was music, free gear—water bottles, athletic socks and shoes—rock climbing, kayaking, sailing, biking, seining in Jamaica Bay, and plenty of ninja competitions! Overall, the youth summit was fun and educational, and Team Gateway became more aware of urban environmental issues and connected with the SCA Green Team in New Jersey!
During the last week of June, Team Gateway assisted Resources Manager Jeanne McArthur-Heuser in banding ospreys and collecting bird banding data. The Team went to about ten nesting sites along the Sandy Hook peninsula. They hoisted a ladder up to the osprey nests which were situated on 20ft high, manmade posts. The osprey nests were more than five feet in diameter and consisted of various materials, such as sticks, plastic bags, and fishing lines, one of which was wrapped around a juvenile osprey’s neck! The number of juvenile ospreys found in each nest ranged from none to three. The aluminum bands applied to the osprey's legs will be used to collect information on its migration patterns, life span, and population growth. Furthermore, a feather sample was taken from the ospreys for chemical analysis. Besides being ladder boys, corps members John, Mason, and Bobby got a chance to band the baby ospreys and give them names! Overall they were very grateful for this new and different project which offered a much needed break from invasive plant removal.
At the entrance to Fort Hancock stand two symbols of the Cold War era of US military history, the Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules missiles. The two missiles represent the last “guardians” of the New York harbor and metropolitan area. Team Gateway was at Guardian Park to remove three pine trees that were a driving and visual hazard to visitors. With the new Stihl chainsaw and experience at the Lot B project site, Team Gateway made headway at the new site, and felled and treated the three pine trees all in one day!
After CMT, Team Gateway was excited to put their chainsaw training and skills into use. The first project site was Parking Lot B, located near the southern end of the Sandy Hook peninsula. The target plant species was Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) which presented itself as a different challenge compared to the trees felled in Washington state. The Japanese black pine trees had a very irregular shape and thick, rough bark and were very sappy. Also its lower branches were so long that they drooped to the ground and were easily mistaken as roots when covered in duff. Therefore the trees took a toll on the old chainsaws. Also there were other challenges such as the small bed of the truck which the team used to collect and haul the chopped branches and trunks to a disposal site. It ended up taking three times as long or more to haul the tree parts than it took to fell and limb the trees. Yet the team persevered and used their resources. They used the new Stihl chainsaws that last year’s team put off from using. Soon Team Gateway was felling and hauling pine trees efficiently like a well-oiled tree felling machine. However the only thing that stopped the team from felling the last pine tree at B Lot was a bird’s nest with four adorable, screaming mockingbird chicks! So the team plans to check on the chicks in several weeks and wait until they have left the nest before felling the last tree.
CMT was held at the Girl Scout Camp in Longview, WA. The first couple of days were beautiful and sunny. Then the Gateway team experienced the rainy, temperamental spring weather of the Pacific Northwest, but they endured and had fun meeting members from around the country and different SCA programs. The Gateway team made their mark at this year’s CMT by winning several awards. John won an Excellence Award for “Best Clean Plate”; Mason was the Ninja champion; Susan won an Excellence Award for a card game; and Bobby made it to the top 10 of several team building games and won Excellent All Around. Among the trainings and workshops that the CMs attended were Leave No Trace, Wilderness First Aid, and the Northeast Woodlands Chainsaw training (NEWT). Team Gateway was excited about chainsaw training because this season they’ll be felling a variety of trees-tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) and pine trees (Pinus thunbergii)! Timber!
On May 18th, the new Gateway corps members-John Crowe, Mason Floyd, and Charles Schureman-arrived safe and sound at Sandy Hook, NJ. They all hailed from different states—the Bay State, the Volunteer State, and the Land of Lincoln—to come spend a summer doing conservation work in the Garden State. They also arrived hungry and were treated to fresh, homemade pizzas at the famed Italian restaurant Basil T’s. Overall they were excited to be living and to start working on the Jersey shore!
Hey, my name is John Crowe and this is the first time that i've done anything with the SCA. I'm from Boston MA and am currently working down in Gateway with the native plant team.
Hey, my name is Bobby and this is my first time working for the SCA. I'm from Central Illinois and I am a senior at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville. I am exited for this summer with SCA and the experience I will get from it.
Hi my name is Mason Floyd. I am from Knoxville, TN where I attend the University of Tennessee studying environmental science. I just finished another SCA native plant corps position in South Carolina. Excited to be spending my summer in Sandy Hook, NJ!
Hi! My name is Susan Robinson, and this will be my second season as the Native Plant Corps project leader at Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, NJ. Since 2009, I’ve been with the SCA where I was a crew leader for the Green Conservation Corps building trails, removing invasive plants, and training crew members in green job skills in New York state parks. Last season the Gateway team removed and treated a record number of the invasive tree of heaven. This season I look forward to studying last year’s results and continuing our progress!
|Susan Robinson (Project Leader)|
|Farewell to Summer at the Jersey Shore|
|Project Site: Multi-Use Path and Fields near lighthouse|
|E Lot & Ranger Station|
|Project Site: Fee Plaza|
|Shorebird Monitoring & Protection|
|Mid-season Project/Outreach—NJ Green Team and Newark Crew|
|Outside the Wall—North Maintenance|
|Outdoor Nation Youth Summit NYC|
|Project Site: Guardian Memorial Park|
|Project Site: Lot B|
|Corps Member Training|