As we get ready to celebrate another Earth Day in Van Cortlandt Park, we wanted to share a summary of 25 ways the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are working to address climate change within Van Cortlandt Park. The Friends are actively working on several of these but some are in the works to begin within the next year or so. As always, we welcome the support and assistance of the community so please let us know if you are interested in helping with any of these items. And why 25? If you haven’t heard, it’s our 25th Anniversary so 25 is a special number for us this year.
1. FVCP community gardening
Growing local produce in our garden to provide residents with locally grown food that reduces travel costs, green house gas emissions and creates green space.
2. Garden Education
Garden education at the FVCP garden promotes the necessary skills and knowledge to manage and maintain an urban garden and provides experience based learning for school groups often giving children their first experience with urban agriculture. By creating future gardeners FVCP is ensuring the establishment of local green spaces critical for fighting climate change.
3. Restoring Tibbetts brook wetland
Wetlands provide numerous ecological services including water holding capacity and a unique assemblage of plants and animals. With climate change expected to bring higher rates of precipitation, intact healthy wetlands are an important component of green space management.
4. Water quality monitoring
FVCP conducted a full year of water quality monitoring. Statistical analysis has provided evidence that temperature and precipitation are important drivers of nutrient dynamics from month to month within Van Cortlandt Lake. Understanding how climate parameters such as temperature influence nutrient levels in the lake will lead to a better understanding of the potential impacts in a warmer and wetter northeast.
5. Tracking changes in the phenology of plants and animals
The timing of events in plants and animals can be a function of changes in temperature and the hydrological environment. This includes the flowering times of plants, migrations of birds and the mating period of amphibians. By keeping track of the timing of events or the phenology of plants and animals within the park it will help us understand how ecosystems are responding to climate change.
6. Enhancement of John Muir trail
Areas of the John Muir trail run directly next to highway and likely increase the urban heat island effect. Planting done along this trail helps reduce local temperature and provide habitat corridors that can be used comfortably by wildlife.
7. Reduction of asphalt and soil restoration through mycoremediation
Asphalt can increase local temperatures and also acts as an impermeable surface for the movement of water. FVCP in conjunction with research students from the Ethical Culture Fieldston School are experimenting on the use of fungi to both decompose asphalt and restore the soil in the surrounding environment.
8. Creation of healthy soils through the use of compost
Last year during the summer FVCP accepted 300+ Lbs a week of food scraps, reducing landfill biomass and providing a soil amendment that increases water storing capacity and the storage of carbon. Soil restoration and health is a critically important component to managing the effects of a changing climate,
9. Daylighting Tibbetts Brook
Rain in the park typically means that millions of gallons of water from the lake will be ushered to Wards Island treatment facility where systems become overflowed and excess water is directed into the Harlem River. As models predict a greater frequency of storms in the northeast, daylighting Tibbetts Brook will greatly reduce the amount of combined sewage overflow, creating a healthier watershed.
10. Know your infrastructure!
As temperatures rise, the nutrients deposited into VCP Lake will likely become a bigger problem. Nutrients have been shown to enter VCP Lake through cracked plumbing pipes, unfiltered runoff pipes from highways and illegal dumping. By educating yourself on your local infrastructure you can help spot and prevent future pollution problems likely to be exacerbated under climate change scenarios predicting warmer temperatures.
11. Biodiversity surveys
Biodiversity provides one of the most important measures of ecosystem structure and process. As organisms respond to climate change it is important to understand what community structure is actually present and what places in the park contain species rich and species poor areas. Simply put, if we are to manage and conserve urban parks, detailed understanding of biodiversity is essential, especially in the face of habitat modification through climate change.
12. Solar panel based transportation
Currently, gas runs the vehicles used by Parks Department for transportation of employees and equipment. By using electric or solar powered vehicles we can reduce the insitu emissions of CO2 while helping to maintain un-compacted soils. This in return will help to reduce temperatures in the park and maintain a healthy soil ecosystem. We strongly urge the Parks Department to move in this direction.
13. Trail maintenance
By channeling water to reduce runoff and erosion, the maintenance of trails is an important component of maintaining soil ecology which in turn helps to store carbon and provide nutrients to carbon sequestering organisms such as trees.
14. Education through Forester for a day
Future action against climate change will require a public that is both educated about the potential impacts of climate change but also has a working knowledge of natural history. Through our forest based programs FVCP are helping to ensure that children in urban areas are exposed to the inner workings of forests, meadows and wetlands to secure a future where nature is an integral part of urban life.
15. FVCP climate change hikes
FVCP staff wants to provide the opportunity for NYC residents interested in the many ways climate change is and can influence ecosystems. Climate change hikes will provide opportunity to explore the natural history of VCP under the context of global change and creates a venue for stimulating discussion. We believe in order to change climate NYC citizens need to both be exploring and talking to each other about both problems, skepticism and solutions.
16. FVCP Encourages You to Ride your Bike to the Park
A simple way to reduce the amount of green house gas emissions locally is to ride your bike to the park upon visits.
17. Parks Without Borders
Parks Without Borders envisions a seamless transition from street to parks that increases the amount of green spaces at the border areas. Creating more planting beds will provide an increasing surface area of photosynthetic surface that provides shade, habitat and reduction of CO2.
18. Floating wetland
One possible solution to an increase in precipitation and temperature, which will likely increase nutrient input into the lake and expedite eutrophic processes, would be to construct a floating wetland. Not only do these wetlands increase green space aiding in carbon sequestration but also one can also significantly reduce nutrients through the absorption from plant roots.
19. Water Boom Technology
Booms placed across Tibbetts Brook help reduce the amount of trash that moves into the lake ecosystem. In addition oil that runs from the highway and accidental spills are blocked and absorbed with the use of booms. Maintaining booms will be an important component of freshwater management given greater frequency of rain events to maintain garbage reduction and aesthetics.
20. The John Kieran Trail enhancement
The John Kieran Trail crosses through different forest types as well as brings hikers through wetlands and next to the lake. Not only is it important to provide access to promote outdoor recreation that feeds back into environmentalism but plantings along the John Kiernan provides protection against erosion, soil compaction, ultimately increasing the carbon sequestering surface area.
21. Greater forest & park continuity
There are three options when it comes to climate change, adapt, go extinct or move. By creating larger connected forest patches and providing ways for animals to reach all parts of the park that are bisected by highways, plants and animals can have the opportunity to disperse and colonize new areas, reducing the potential of local extirpation or extinction.
22. Completion of the master plan
Completion of the master plan will bring together ecological and sociological concerns from both professionals and citizens that will build new areas for recreation provide enhancement to forests and wetlands and ultimately bring more people within the park borders to experience nature. Climate change solutions need to be supported by knowledge of ecosystems, plant and animal behavior and an appreciation of nature. Without such enthusiasm and participation from the public it is hard to broadcast basic principles in climate change science.
23. A working relationship with Tibbetts Park
Climate change operates at spatial scales that require a landscape approach to land management. Tibbetts Park borders VCP to the north and is connected through the sharing of Tibbetts Brook. Many of the problems experienced here within the park such as the emergence of water chest nut or point source pollution can only be managed at the proper scale with a working relationship between Tibbetts Park and VCP.
24. Monitoring of Air Quality
Working with Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, FVCP will begin to monitor air quality both inside the park and in the neighborhoods that surround it. This will allow us to better quantify the importance of Van Cortlandt Park on air quality in a congested borough with high asthma rates and therefore better advocate for the protection of our park.
25. Support FVCP
FVCP provide one of NYC premier forested parks with the needed assistance to maintain and conserve wild and green spaces. FVCP provide education, restoration and enhancement and important data that help manage the forests and wetlands in the face of ecological and anthropogenic disturbance. Making FVCP one of the most important solutions to climate change within van Cortlandt Park!