Friday, July 31, 2009

Education Galore- Harborfest and More!! (7/23/09 - 7/29/09)


A new tradition for Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and River Stewards has begun. This year was the very first year the stewards went to Harborfest, and with this year's success we hope to be in attendance in the future. We fine-tuned our wetland demonstration from the Oswego County Fair to help younger children understand what exactly a wetland is, and why they should care about them. A model wetland was constructed using, amongst other things, large sponges and fake vegetation. Children were then asked to pour dirty water over the "wetland" and watch as the wetland seemed to magically filter the water; the dirt was stopped by the sponges and the water that ran through our model wetland was clear. The children were amazed by the result and began to see "those swampy things" (as wetlands are sometimes referred to) as important and relevant to their own lives. For those too young to understand the activity, stewards created a display depicting wetlands wildlife. Both younger and older kids went wild for the wetlands wildlife display! Once the kids recognized an animal, they were eager to share their many animal-related stories (and we were eager to hear them).

Not only were the kids learning, but their were parents too! There was a table set up just brimming with informational literature, covering subjects from the emerald ash borer and the fish disease VHSv to maps of the Salmon River. Over the course of the three days the stewards were in attendance, we talked to hundreds of people and informed a lot of members of the community about many of the local natural resources, including wetlands.

Stacy (pictured above) reviews the wetlands display with a youngster at Harborfest. Photo by Salmon River Steward, Emily Freeman.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards

Dune Steward Liz Wolff has been continuing her efforts to keep Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in beautiful condition by installing another roll of snow-fencing. The snow-fencing helps to prevent dune erosion by protecting the dunes from damaging foot traffic as well as helps to promote dune growth, by capturing blowing sand. Liz also continued working on her one page summary sheet about woodpecker adaptations. Each season, a steward is charged with the creation of a newspaper article, interactive program, and one page summery sheet about a topic of their choice. These ‘one pagers’, as we call them, are yet another way the stewards educate when we distribute them at events such as Harborfest.

At Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area (SPB), Chief Steward Greg Chapman experienced the first "true summer weekend." The high heat, humidity, and a much calmer Lake Ontario, brought crowds of people looking for relief and relaxation. Although the beach was the busiest it's been this season, Greg is glad to report that there was minimal trash left behind. There were, however, the remains of several fires, one still smoldering in an area where many kids and pets play. Visitors are reminded that fires are prohibited at SPB, as they consume driftwood that is valuable in the dune-building process and leave behind the fire pits themselves, which can be not only unsightly but dangerous. Fires also strip the microscopic organisms and what few nutrients that are found in the sand.

Dune Steward Paul Dawson continued to encounter elaborately made structures on the beaches of Lakeview WMA. He wants to once again remind everyone that those structures are not permitted. They remove and impair driftwood's ability to stabilize the dunes and can be dangerous to humans and wildlife if they collapse. Paul also reported seeing a bald eagle at Lakeview WMA.

A structure found at Lakeview WMA. Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward, Paul Dawson.

River Steward Emily Freeman spent most of her time this week at Deer Creek WMA, covering for me, Dune Steward Stacy Furgal, since I was at Harborfest. Emily reported lower numbers of recreational users, but found the remains of fires to be evident at various locations along the beach.

Salmon River Stewards
Only July 27th, River Stewards Jim Katz and Emily Freeman held a Salmon River Falls tour for twenty kids aged 6-12. They educated them about the historical uses of the Falls, how the Salmon River is used for hydropower, why it is important to protect such a unique area, and what types of animals and plants they could find there. The kids were really into it, they especially loved getting to the riverbed and being able to go on a search for frogs, fish, crayfish, or anything else they could see. They were asking all types of questions (What kind of bug is this? What kind of flower is this? Why is there graffiti?), and seemed to retain a lot of the information, particularly the information about why we need to protect these areas, and what they can do to help. One of the stewards most important jobs is to educate, both children and adults, how to responsibly use the natural resources around them.
That Saturday, River Steward Jim Katz was again at work in the Salmon River Falls Unique Area, and he reported people throwing rocks from the top of the falls into the plunge pool below, as well as people swimming in the plunge pool. These activities are dangerous and are prohibited.

At the Salmon River Reservoir River Steward Jim Katz encountered a family from Baldwinsville, NY enjoying a picnic together. The family decided to take the day to enjoy the Salmon River Reservoir while riding motorcycles in the area. Ospreys, fish hunting birds of prey, were out and very active that day.

Osprey in flight. Photo by Salmon River Steward, Jim Katz.

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