Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Saw Mill River Seminars, September 29, 2006

Monday, February 12th, 2007

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2006
Ann-Marie Mitroff
(914) 375-2151 or
Cell (914) 815-5872

River Environment Focus of Saw Mill River Seminars

The Saw Mill River Coalition is sponsoring free training seminars to educate people about invasive vines that are harming the river environment, to teach people about the native plants that should be encouraged to grow in that very environment, and to know what it takes to restore a river. Once trained, the Coalition is hoping that many of the trained group will join their River RATz (Restoration Action Team) to remove vines, plant natives and otherwise assist in restoring sections of the Saw Mill River.

The following seminars are offered at Lenoir Preserve, Dudley St. in Yonkers this 2006-2007:

Invasive Plants: Search and Destroy Saturday, Oct. 7, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Jeff Main, Senior Curator of the Bronx River Reservation will teach how to identify the most common invasive plants in the Saw Mill River watershed. A session to identify the plants in the field will be held immediately after the class at Lenoir. People are requested to bring work gloves and loppers or pruners, if they have them. There will be some available.

Native Plants of the Riparian Environment, Saturday, Oct. 14, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Carol Gracie, NY Botanical Gardens, a naturalist, adventurer and botanical photographer (with five species of wildflowers named after her), author of Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States, will discuss plants commonly found along the riparian/wetland corridor. The classroom session will be held at Lenoir Preserve, field session at Woodlands Lake immediately following presentation.

Vine Cutting Kick-Off—Make A Difference Day, October 28, 8:30-12:30AM
The trained River RATz will be joined by volunteer groups from throughout the watershed, including Free-A-Tree vine cutters, on the first vine cutting of the season at the Farragut Ave site, located at Exit 13 of the Saw Mill River Parkway where the South County Trail parking lot is located.

River Restoration Projects, To Be Arranged, probably early 2007
Sven Hoeger, Creative Habitat Corp, will describe the elements of stream bank restoration projects, including the critical need for riparian buffers and how they function for the health of wildlife and stream life. A field site will be chosen.

The seminars are funded by the Westchester Community Foundation. The Saw Mill River Coalition, in cooperation with the Westchester County Parks Department, has formed a partnership with NYS’s Adopt-A-Highway program. Vine cutting, clean up, and restoration efforts are being conducted in two sections of the river (and parkway) on the first Saturday of each month beginning in December: Pleasantville and Farragut Avenue.

For Information and Seminar Registration: Send or email name, telephone, email, and dates of attendance to: Ann-Marie Mitroff, Coordinator, Saw Mill River Coalition, Office address: 6 Wells Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10701; Email:; Office number: (914) 375-2151, Cell: (914) 815-5872.

Directions: Lenoir Preserve: Saw Mill River Parkway. Exit at Executive Blvd. Proceed to the end of Executive Blvd. and make a right turn onto North Broadway. Make a left onto Dudley Street; entrance is on the left. Woodlands Lake: Saw Mill River Parkway NORTH is ONLY way to access site. Approx. ½ mile after Ardsley Exit, exit on right directly to lake (Old Cantina Restaurant site). Sign (if there)–Great Hunger Park at VE Macy Park.

“Free-A-Tree” Project, October 4, 2006

Monday, February 12th, 2007

For Immediate Release
October 4, 2006
Contact: Terry Joshi, Volunteer Coordinator
914-969-4142 or
Ann-Marie Mitroff, Coalition Coordinator,

Saw Mill River Coalition and New York State Department of Transportation Continue with "Free-A-Tree" project in their battle against invasive vines

The Saw Mill River Coalition and the New York State Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, plan to continue to build on the initial success of their Free-A-Tree project, which supports volunteers in their efforts to remove the invasive vines that are strangling trees and shrubbery along the Saw Mill River Parkway. The ultimate goal of the Free-A-Tree project is to inspire local organizations, municipalities and businesses to adopt and maintain their own segments along the Saw Mill River Parkway. The Saw Mill River Coalition* and the DOT have instituted this vine removal pilot project to rescue native vegetation, restore the stream buffer, and preserve the area’s biodiversity.

The 2006-2007 kick-off date for Free-A-Tree, Saturday, October 28, was selected to coincide with National “Make A Difference Day.”

A ubiquitous problem throughout the Northeast, fast-growing, tenacious vines are among the worst of the foreign plants that threaten to overwhelm local habitats. Oriental bittersweet and porcelainberry, the two most common invaders to be seen along the area’s local roads, are considered “invasives,” a term used for plants that crowd out native plants and slowly strangle trees in their upward spiral, eventually shrouding tree canopies from the sun and creating a blanket over under-story plants and shrubs. This significantly diminishes the value of wildlife habitat, in terms of food sources and nesting areas, and has a negative impact upon the number of species that use the river corridor, which parallels the parkway corridor for many miles.

On Saturday, October 28, volunteers will work in the Yonkers/Hastings/Dobbs Ferry/Ardsley area from Farragut Avenue to Lawrence Street. Two previous Free-A-Tree days at this site have resulted in an appreciable difference in the amount of invasive vines shrouding trees and shrubbery along this stretch of the Parkway. On Saturday, December 2, vine removal will occur from Marble Avenue to Bedford Road in Mount Pleasant. Further dates will be scheduled throughout the year; as sections are cleared, additional stretches of highway will be incorporated into the program, with an eventual goal of revitalizing all the native habitats along the Saw Mill Parkway and River.

Dozens of volunteers are needed! Individuals and environmental, civic and municipal organizations are urged to dedicate an hour or more to help with this important mission. Participants must be at least 16 years of age. Community service credits will be granted for high school students.

To register as a volunteer, send your name and phone number to or call the Saw Mill River Coalition at 914-375-2151.

The Saw Mill River Coalition, a program of Groundwork Yonkers, is an alliance of municipalities, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and others dedicated to revitalizing and protecting the Saw Mill River. With its Saw Mill River RATz (Restoration Action Team) volunteer program, it is restoring wildlife habitat and biodiversity along the Saw Mill River. For more information, call 914-375-2151 or email

Fish Study Grant awarded from Westchester Community Foundation

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Groundwork Hudson Valley
is pleased to announce that a $30,000 grant has been received from Westchester Community
Foundation to conduct a comprehensive
fish study of the Saw
Mill River
in 2008.

The river has been home
to over 20 species of fish and was widely known among Northeastern
Americans as the “Great Fishing Trap” because of its abundance of fish.
river’s fish help maintain its ecological balance and serve as
indicators of
its overall health. Nevertheless water monitoring results and fish
conducted over the last two decades indicate that fish diversity is
and existing fish populations diminishing in number. Through our
partnership with Hudsonia as well as continued collaboration with
and ecologists from the County and Lehman College
and students from Saunders High School
and Manhattan College,
we will undertake a thorough study of the fish that migrate to and from
and live and spawn in the Saw Mill River. This project will address the
problem of inadequate data on the river’s aquatic life and will present
opportunities to restore and improve biodiversity in the stream and
to the overall wellbeing of the watershed. Specifically:

1. Develop comprehensive
data on the river’s fish populations.
This project builds on three previous
fish surveys; one conducted in 1936 (Greely) and two others undertaken by Ferry
Sloop (Saw Mill River Coalition precursor) and fish biologist Antonios
Pappantoniou at Lehman
College in 1989 and 2003
respectively. (The latter study was funded by Beczak with a grant from New
York State.)
Though valuable, the results of the last two studies were limited, as noted by
Dr. Pappantoniou in the 2003 final report. Sites were surveyed 2-4 times and
samples were taken in one season only. Our survey will be significantly more comprehensive: we will target more sites (11+),
survey each site at least 12 times, and conduct tests in spring, summer, and
fall. The study will provide the first comprehensive
description of the variety of fish in the river as well as each species
approximate numbers. The methods used will also allow us to develop, for the
first time, preliminary data on other stream life, including aquatic insects,
amphibians and mollusks.

 2. Improve restoration efforts. Over the last three years,
WCF helped GWY and the Coalition establish a very successful, ongoing
biodiversity initiative focused on riparian restoration (River RATz—Restoration
Action Team), citizen observations (website blog), and removing invasive vines
that threaten native trees and plants and the insects, birds, and mammals that
depend on them. These past efforts, together with the knowledge gained during
this fish study will give us a broader and more integrated view of the
condition of the whole watershed and help us institute increasingly targeted,
effective, and integrated restoration projects.

 3. Influence the daylighting design. With the river’s
biodiversity diminishing and its daylighting soon to begin, we must move
quickly to determine what fish are in the river and use the results to ensure
the engineering design for opening up the river in Yonkers promotes
aquatic diversity and allows for migrating fish to thrive.

The objectives of the fish study are to:

1. Complete a comprehensive survey by October 2008, including:

 (a) A general survey of fish and other aquatic life along
the length of the river: We will survey each site in the spring, summer, and
fall. Since fish move in and out of the tributary and inhabit different river
sections at different times, the multi-season approach is essential to ensure comprehensive data. Fish will be collected using
electroshock and with seines (5’ long nets weighted at the bottom with floaters at the top) set at each location
and will be identified, measured, weighed, and then set free. Kick boxes will
be used to catch and record the existence of other aquatic life. These are the
same methods are accepted practice for this type of study and were employed in
the 1989 and 2003 studies.

 (b) A targeted study, conducted in the lower river (below
mile 3.2) of the prevalence of the American Eel: American eels are partially
dependent on Hudson River tributaries for
juveniles to grow and mature. The daylighting project may encourage migrations
of the eel up the river. Targeted surveys are required to determine the
presence and prevalence of this species in the river and Robert Schmidt and his
team from Hudsonia will conduct
these surveys. Hudsonia will test 4 sites below Yonkers Water Works Dam (3.2
miles from mouth) using a backpack
electro shocker. Mr. Schmidt considers this the only appropriate collection
method for eels since they cannot easily be caught in nets. If adequate numbers
are present, Hudsonia will estimate population using a depletion method –
shocking each location 3 times, and removing eels each time an area is shocked.
Eels will be counted, measured, and released.

 (c) A targeted study of migratory fish at the river’s mouth:
One of the important roles of the Hudson River
tributaries is as spawning areas for an array of anadromous
and potamodromous fish. To date, no
one has sampled a tributary that empties into the saline portion of the Hudson for migratory fish.
Tributary spawning occurs in the spring. It will be valuable to learn if
migratory species are present in the mouth of the river to predict what species
may use the river mouth once daylighting is complete.
The Hudsonia team will sample the tidal mouth of river 4 times to capture migratory
fish. Sampling will be done using gill nets in April and May. Nets will be set
on an incoming tide and retrieved at
high tide. Similar sampling in other tributaries has shown that these species
follow the tide into tributary mouths. Fish will be identified, measured and
released if possible. Catch per unit effort will be calculated and compared to other Hudson River
tributary studies.

 2. Complete a
report by December 2008, including findings and a comparison
of results with prior studies, and distribute the report to local decision
makers and planners, developers, other Coalition members, and nonprofits.

 3. Complete a
protocol for future fish monitoring efforts and distribute it to local decision
makers and planners, developers, other Coalition members, and nonprofits. The
protocol will assign tasks to appropriate organizations and/or consultants and
will include a timeline for implementation and a schedule for continued

 4. Using survey results raise awareness among developers,
municipal decision makers, and community
members about the current state and needs of the river’s fish populations in
order to proactively

           (a) Inform
the environmental impact review of the daylighting project,

           (b) Influence
the daylighting design so that it protects and improves river habitat,           
           (c) Through one–on-one and group
meetings and community forums, promote policies that protect and restore the fish
populations and habitat along the stream’s length.

 5. Educate and train 30-40 high school students, 2-4 college
students, and 3-5 volunteers in  stream
ecology, survey methodology, testing techniques, and data analysis in order to
broaden participants’ understanding of the interdependence of ecosystems along
the Saw Mill River and make them more knowledgeable and forceful advocates for
the protection of the river.

For more information, or to find out
how to participate, email or call Ann-Marie Mitroff, Director of River
Programs, (914) 375-2151 or

Hastings High School Environmental Club Gets Award

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Volunteer Spirit Award–fromThe Volunteer Center of United Way

Going Green Award

High School Environmental
Carly Slater and Leila Quinn, Club Co-Presidents

Over the last 3 years, the Hastings High School
Environmental Club has “adopted” our “Free-A-Tree” invasive vine cutting project
located primarily at Farragut
Avenue and the Saw Mill River Parkway. This site
sandwiches the Saw
Mill River
in-between the Saw Mill River
Parkway and Saw Mill River Road.

There are beautiful sycamore trees and other large trees
that are being strangled by invasive vines. Without the trees shading the
river, the temperature of the river will rise, and the habitat for birds and
animals will be jeopardized. The club has between 15 and 25 students who come out regularly between November and May—usually
once or twice a month, from 9:30 am
to 12:30 pm, and cut and remove vines from
trees. This group has been so steadfast that we have permanently lent them
their own set of hard hats and safety vests. The students all bring their own
tools (loppers and clippers).

This is VERY hard work. The group thrived being outdoors,
being trained by the Westchester County Parks Volunteer Coordinator and a Saw
Mill River Coalition “River RATz” in how to identify, cut and pull out the
vines. Through their club initiative, they decided to join our effort. However,
early on, we were only doing the Farragut site once every 2 months. They asked
if they could independently do the Farragut site every month, or even more. We
worked with them a few more times and then permanently lent them equipment to
continue on their own that first year. In subsequent years, they have elected
new senior presidents and recommitted
to the project. This is now the 3rd year—a very impressive club
program given how many other activities are available at the high school level
and how hard this work is.


Well over 150 trees have been “freed” since this Free-A-Tree
project began and the cumulative work the environmental club has done is working
wonders at this location. Trees that have been shrouded in vines are now free. We
have citizens call and remark that the site looks better—and citizens using the
Trailway. Even the NYS DOT has noticed a marked difference. This site is being
targeted for additional restoration work with grants from Westchester Community
Foundation (to supervise and train the volunteers), New York State’s
Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program
(restoration plan, funds for materials) and US EPA (funds for staff
supervision). Without such determined work from critical volunteers groups—such
as the Hastings High School Environmental Club—we would not take on such a
large restoration effort.

While it was mentioned previously, removing invasive vines
is very hard physical work. It is NOT for the reluctant or timid
volunteer—especially pulling out multi-flora rose. These students keep at it
and come back for more! In addition,
the team arrives right at 9:30 am, which on a Saturday for high school
students, is remarkable. 

When you see them out there working—give them a big “thank

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