Water chestnut eradication effort continues

Esopus HZTWith summer approaching, Esopus Creek Conservancy once again begins its program to control invasive water chestnut plants in the Saugerties Cove. The challenge is ongoing and our methods are ever-changing as we continue to understand more about how this plant grows and spreads. Over the years, hardy volunteers in kayaks and rowboats pulled and cut plants and dragged enormous amounts of mature plants to shore. With a greater understanding of the plant’s growth cycle, and the Conservancy’s acquisition of our lake mower in 2012, our methods, expertise and effectiveness have grown and hopefully we will continue to keep ahead of the plant’s impressive ability to outwit us. Also, this year our purchase of a six-horsepower outboard motor to power the boat that carries the lake mower will increase our effectiveness.

In a nutshell, we now know that we need to cut the plant early when it first emerges. And we need to cut often and deep enough to eliminate a second bud about eight inches down the stem. We have also adjusted our goals as related to the water chestnut “invasion” of the Village Cove. This year’s modest aim is to cut a path through the plants to allow paddlers access to the interior cove to observe nature on the shores of Esopus Bend Nature Preserve, as well as to allow fishermen access to fish in the cove. A remaining challenge will be to keep the path open as the plants on either side of the mowed path grow, expand and close in.

Last week Jason Novak and Skip Arthur took the lake mower on its first run of the season and got a good start on clearing a path through the emerging water chestnuts. This past weekend, Skip and Sal Cigliano spent a few hours cutting the plants that have emerged sooner than expected. Sal, with his extensive experience as a motorboat operator and his knowledge of the creek, will give this project substantial momentum.

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“I love the creek and we need more people to help so we can get a lot done and keep the Saugerties cove clear.”

This was his sentiment after spending a couple of hours running the operation with Skip.

While only a few persons with experience operating an outboard motor and lake mower will keep the project going, we will still need volunteers in kayaks, canoes and rowboats. After the plants have been cut, they will need to be removed from the path manually if the wind and current do not do the job. Also, some cut plants will float to the shore by the Village Beach. Volunteers will need to rake and gather the cut plants into piles and dispose of them in a designated place in the park adjacent to the beach.

I want to thank Skip Arthur and Jason Novak for leading the water chestnut eradication effort, and all the volunteers who have been involved in this project in the past. For those who would like to help, there is still work for kayakers and canoeists to do and we really need your help. We are looking into a way to gather the cut plants that come to shore and to dispose of them. Also, the lake mower cannot operate too close to the water lilies, a plant protected by the Department of Environmental Conservation. If kayakers and canoeists cut water chestnut plants in those areas it will enhance the quality of the water and protect the water lilies as well.

So please keep posted, and if you can help email or call Susan Bolitzer (susanbolitzer@gmail.com or 845-901-1539). Esopus Creek Conservancy, as always, greatly appreciates the community’s support both hands-on and financial. It keeps this project going. We also greatly appreciate the cooperation of George Terpening and Bill Murphy and all the village of Saugerties’ support and collaboration on this most challenging project.