NYC DEP Unveils Tool At Catskills Trail To Brush Off Invasive Species

Jul 16, 2018

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has a new way to combat invasive species. The DEP installed a boot brush station at the foot of a trail in Delaware County. It is believed to be the first such station in the Catskills. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne was there for the ribbon cutting and community hike.

Meredith Taylor is an invasive species biologist with the DEP.

“So we hope that people who come out here to use this great trail are going to brush off their boots before they come out on the trail, and any seeds that might be stuck on there from the last hike they did, particularly seeds from invasive plants, will come off and get trapped in the gravel pad and then they won’t be able to germinate and grow, and that vector will be stopped so that we don’t have high traffic areas like this one, well, relatively high traffic for the region, bringing in new species from outside the region that aren’t here yet and can cause harm,” says Taylor.

The Shavertown Trail is near Pepacton Reservoir. The trailhead is in Andes.

“On our informational sign that we put up, we have Oriental bittersweet is one that we don’t see a lot of in this area, but it’s moving into this region. It has little berries, and it produces a lot of berries, and so those potentially could get stuck in your treads as you walk over the berries and the seeds come loose. Those are also commonly spread by birds, but bird dispersal is fairly limited in range. A human who steps on them on the other side of the county could bring them over here. So it’s potentially a fast way for them to catch a ride. So that’s one,” Taylor says. “Another one is swallow-wort. We have an infestation of pale swallow-wort over on the other side of the Pepacton Reservoir. And that one is one of the first infestations in this part of the state. It’s more common in the western part of the state. And, we’re not quite sure how it got there, but we don’t want to see it move any further than it does spread naturally.”

That took hold in 2007 and DEP has kept it under control since.

“We are at Snake Pond on the Shavertown Trail looking down at the Pepacton Reservoir from about 700 feet or so up from the trailhead,” says George.

That’s Wendell George, who led the hike. He’s executive director of the non-profit Catskill Mountain Club, which built the Shavertown Trail in partnership with the DEP.

“We recognize that the thing that promotes conservation and environmental protection is for people to get out, and hike, and fall in love with the place,” George says. “And then they’re engaged.”

Adam Bosch is DEP spokesman.

“Pepacton Reservoir was built in the 1950s. It’s the largest reservoir in New York City’s water supply. It stores 140 billion gallons of water at full capacity,” Bosch says. “And, on a typical day, if you average it out throughout the whole year, 25 percent of New York City’s water comes just from this single reservoir here at Pepacton.”

John Thompson is with the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership.

“New York state is one of the leaders in invasive species management in the country,” says Thompson.

He says the July 13 boot brush station unveiling was one of several events in the region highlighting Invasive Species Awareness week.

“All of us care about the Catskills,” Thompson says. “And that’s why we’re trying to protect the Catskills from invasive species so we can protect the ecosystem, the economy here, and also human health.”

The DEP’s Taylor says others who go on hikes can transport invasive species.

“So in addition to getting the seeds off your boots, our dogs are a great way to moves seeds as well. Their coats can catch all different kinds of seeds that have hooks on them that catch a ride,” says Taylor. “So, if you see seeds on your dog, it’s a good idea to remove them as you go along, but particularly before you go from one area to another.”

Taylor says boot brush stations have become popular in the Midwest, and the DEP looked at similar setups there, including in Minnesota, as its model.

“The whole setup is under $1,000 and so it can be done pretty much anywhere. In this region, we have them going in at a number of the Scenic Hudson preserves along the Hudson River. In New York, elsewhere in the state, they’ve gone in in the Finger Lakes, and western New York they’ve put in a number of them on their trails,” says Taylor. “So it’s really picking up steam and catching on, and everyone’s trying to get into the boot brush game.”

Meantime, the emerald ash borer has forced the closure of a section of the Shavertown Trail for DEP to address the damage. Catskill Mountain Club volunteers built a new section that was recently opened and part of the community hike. Here the DEP’s Bosch.

“When those ash trees get killed by the borer, they become very prone to falling down, getting toppled by wind, and that can pose a danger to the public. So what we do is we go in to the forest and we take those ash trees out proactively so that the wood can still be used for things like cabinetry and wood flooring and guitar bodies and all the sorts of things that ash wood is good for, take it out, send it to, whoever’s doing the project takes it to a mill where that wood can be used. And that’s what we’re doing here at Shavertown,” says Bosch. “So recently the Catskill Mountain Club has built a different path for the trail so that people can still get to the beautiful vista on top without interfering with the forestry project and the equipment that goes along with it.”

Meantime, George says the Catskill Mountain Club is working on another trail on DEP property that he guesses will stretch about two-to-three miles.

“Over in the town of Olivebridge on the south side of the Ashokan Reservoir. I’m really excited about this project,” says George. “It’s the site of one of the quarries that was used in the construction of the Ashokan Reservoir, the dam. There are artifacts there from that time. Some of the heavy machinery they just abandoned. The cliffs that were created by the quarrying are pretty spectacular. There’s a great view towards the high peaks, the Bros. range, and other mountains that are to the west of the reservoir.”

He hopes to have the trail open before Labor Day. And now it’s my turn at the boot brush station.