Wetland Restoration Efforts in Our Park

Dense stands of Phragmites hold control over the freshwater wetlands of Van Cortlandt Park.  Photo by John Butler.

Dense stands of Phragmites hold control over the freshwater wetlands of Van Cortlandt Park. Photo by John Butler.

In celebration of World Wetlands Day, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park would like to tell you about our new wetland restoration effort in Van Cortlandt Park.  We hope you will join us in making a pledge to preserve our wetlands.

Seen a group working in the wetlands surrounded by the pool, baseball fields and statue south of the Van Cortlandt House? If so, do not be alarmed. The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park have begun a restoration effort within the boundaries of the wetlands of Tibbetts Brook. Our very own Van Cortlandt Park holds a majority of the freshwater wetlands total area in Bronx County with approximately 56 acres. You may ask yourself, if such a large amount of the total wetland acreage is found in VCP, why must we restore it?

Native Cattails still exit within Tibbetts Wetlands, just east of the pool.

Native Cattails still exit within Tibbetts Wetlands, just east of the pool.  Photo by John Butler.

For those of you who have been around Van Cortlandt Park for a number of years will remember that these wetlands changed over the years. Stands of Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, have replaced native hydrophilic species and are here to stay unless there is some intervening done. Phragmites filters water that runs through the wetlands, much like the native species, and provides dense habitat for birds and other wildlife, but the issue with this invasive non-native species is its threat to biodiversity within the Park. Biodiversity, or the measure of variety of organisms within an ecosystem, is important feature of an ecosystem for many reasons including its overall health and stability. More plant species in an area can harbor a more diverse yield of wildlife species, macro invertebrates and other organisms we cannot see with our eyes.

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, alongside volunteer groups and our high school interns will first begin by leveling the now standing Phragmites, and removing the seed heads from the site. The following steps will include the use of a black plastic covering which will be placed down during the Spring and Summer months. This black plastic will heat up the ground where the rhizomes, specialized root systems, of the Phragmites live on after the stalks have been knocked down. This strategy has been done with success, heating up and starving the roots of the reed. After the summer is over, the plastic will be removed, and the site will then be planted and seeded with native species. Close monitoring will take place after the initial removal is performed to prevent Phragmites from reappearing. We hope this restoration project will not only provide a more diverse and beautiful wetland ecosystem within Van Cortlandt Park, but be used as an educational site for the positive impacts of wetlands on a watershed.

If you have any questions about the project or would like to become more involved, please email John Butler, Trails Project Manager, at john@vancortlandt.org.

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Wetland Restoration Efforts in Our Park
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In celebration of World Wetlands Day, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park would like to tell you about our new wetland restoration effort in Van Cortlandt Park. We hope you will join us in making a pledge to preserve our wetlands.
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