The Westchester County executive and a state senator from the Hudson Valley announced funding for a meadow restoration project on Monday. The site is a haven for migratory birds, including bald eagles.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and New York State Senator Terrence Murphy announced that $630,000 has been secured in state and federal funds to strengthen the ecological health of the Croton landfill at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson. Murphy secured $500,000 in state funds to pay for the majority of the project.
“I take my kids and my wife here every year to the EagleFest,” Murphy says. “The $500,000 was a high priority to make sure that we can keep something like this for a lifetime.”
Astorino says the County Soil & Water Conservation District secured the remaining $135,000 in federal funds. He says the restoration project will be used to redesign and manage the grasslands on the old Croton landfill, protect the Hudson River Estuary from invasive species and secure the park as a year-round habitat for the Hudson River bald eagles.
“And this conservation project, which is one of the biggest in Westchester history, will not only restore the meadow as a functionally viable habitat for migrating birds, including bald eagles, it’s also going to be a recreational opportunity for our residents and our visitors here at Croton Point Park,” Astorino says.
Astorino says when the Croton landfill was originally capped more than 15 years ago, the idea was to use it as a habitat for grassland birds, but this vision for the largest meadow in the lower Hudson flyway became threatened. The funds will be used to restore that vision on the 100-acre constructed grassland on the old landfill. Charles Roberto sits on the board of the nonprofit Teatown Lake Reservation in Westchester. He’s also involved with a number of local Audubon chapters. Roberto applauds the funding needed to spruce up the meadow.
“So we still have some really good habitat here. And we have nesting grasshopper sparrows, which are threatened in New York state. We have bobolinks. It’s a beautiful call and they’re up in the morning, not in this heat. They’re a little smarter than us, but they fly around. We have meadowlarks here,” Roberto says. “I saw a kestrel, which is a small falcon, and they’re declining in the Northeast, and habitat like this is needed to help them make their migration.”
He says the restoration project will be good for tourism.
“Nobody’s done the economic value for the county on this. We have people coming from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and even further to come here to see birds,” Roberto says. “During migration you get tundra birds stopping here because this is the closest habitat they see to tundra until they get to the beach. You have things like snow buntings and lapland longspurs and you get short-eared owls, that they were actually wintering here when they first did this cap. So it’s an amazing bird, and at one point you’d come here and see four different species of owls, and it’s really because of this landfill that you see them."
Roberto, who also conducts programs for the state parks department, says the meadow should serve as a classroom for area students.
“They should be bringing schools up here and talking to them,” Roberto says. “Our kids are getting so removed from nature. There’s a nature deficit and this is just a science lab.”
Meanwhile, Senator Murphy says he has worked on other restoration projects in his district.
“The governor just signed my two inland waterway bills,” Murphy says. “So basically what happens is it allows these lakes and these waterways to have access to money for restoration.”
The grassland is managed by the Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities, which also monitors and manages methane emissions for the capped landfill.