Coming together: Hamlin Beach State Park Invasive Species Control

Written by Megan Phillips, Project Coordinator (Albany)

July 30, 2014

swallowwort w flowerstrike team member w bittersweetoriental bittersweet(Above left): Swallow-wort flower. (Above center): Strike team member hauling oriental bittersweet removed from shoreline of Lake Ontario. (Above right): Oriental bittersweet.

On Tuesday, July 29 a crew comprised of NYS Parks Boat Stewards and Invasive Species Strike Team members tackled various infestations in Hamlin Beach State Park. Regional biologist Meg Janis first taught the crew to identify swallow-wort in the forested area near Devil’s Nose. The aim was to remove the swallow-wort that already had seed pods and cut back existing growth to stress the plant until a contractor is able to come through and apply an herbicide. The removal work was conducted off the hiking path leading out to Devil’s Nose. There is an awesome view of the lake if you hike to the end of the trail (shown below).



Next, the group moved on to the lakeshore area near Yanty Creek Marsh. This area of the park features a car-top boat launch for kayaks and canoes, as well as a short nature trail that winds through the marsh. Meg showed us an example of oriental bittersweet (seen above).  This invasive species is a nuisance because it quite literally strangles trees, causing branches to snap. We were amazed by how thick the vines could grow! When the oriental bittersweet is more mature, the stems become woody and even tougher to tackle. The woody stem also adds weight to the plant, which further stresses the trees and other plants that the vine can grow over. We found a large vine system of oriental bittersweet interspersed with a patch of jewel weed, which is a very useful native plant. If you crush the stems of the jewel weed plant you will find that they release an aloe-like juice which takes the itch out of poison ivy rashes and soothes the burn if you stumble into a patch of stinging nettles.

jake with brown snake

(Above left): Phragmites australis infestation near Yanty Creek Marsh. (Above right): Boat Steward Rick Clark finds a pregnant female brown snack in the Phragmites.

The Invasive Species Strike Team produced several machetes from their van full of tools and went to work cutting down stalks of Phragmites australis. Phragmites australis is an invasive reed that can grow to be up to 20 feet tall! As you can probably imagine, the species is very successful at shading native vegetation and preventing other plants from getting enough sunlight to grow. This species is difficult to combat because of its reproductive strategy. It has a dense network of rhizomes underneath the soil. This means that when we see one Phragmites plant, another plant could crop up 100 feet away and come from the SAME rhizome. Chemical control of the plant can be successful if applied to the shaft of the grass as well as the leaves. The plant then translocates the chemical underground into its root structure and usually dies off in a few weeks if the application is done at the correct time of year. The Strike Team isn’t permitted to use chemical control methods, so for Tuesday’s work we stuck to cutting, which stresses the plant and prevents rapid overgrowth of the immediate area. We are hoping that the native plants in the area, including jewel weed and wild cucumber, can now take a hold along the shoreline.

(Below): NYS Parks Boat Stewards and Invasive Species Strike Team members gather for a group shot near the Devil’s Nose swallow-wort control project area. Photo taken by Megan Phillips.

group photo



Stewards Spotlight: Karissa Finds Water Chestnut at Kring Point State Park

Written by Karissa Bertrand, St. Lawrence River Boat Steward 
(Alexandria Bay area)

July 21, 2014


Just like everyone else, Boat Stewards need to take days off too. We’re not invincible and sometimes we get sick. Other times, we can’t work due to the weather. So when I woke up on July 13, and saw that it was raining cats and dogs outside, I asked for the day off. And also, much like everyone else, Boat Stewards have to make up the time that they have missed. So, I headed out to Kring Point state park the following day. The rainstorms had passed and left me with a cool, breezy Monday on the Saint Lawrence River (SLR). Most Mondays in this field of work are pretty slow; with most adults working, people are just too busy to take their boats out at the beginning of the week. But that Monday brought me something pretty interesting.

About ten o’clock, a family from down state came in with their boat and decided to take it out for a ride. I got up and started talking to them about the aquatic invasive species in the SLR, and asked the owner if I could inspect the boat. Starting my inspection like I would any other, I walked to the bow of the boat and headed around to the back. As I got to the other side of the boat, I crouched down to check the trailer for any invasive plant or animal matter. That’s when I saw them; 6 water chestnuts stuck to the underside of this boat.

Water chestnut_Karissa B

Photo credit: Karissa Bertrand

For those of you aren’t familiar with the species, the water chestnut is a rooted plant that rapidly forms thick floating mats and outcompetes most native plant species. In mid-July, small white flowers appear on rosettes at the water’s surface. When fruits form, they become submerged and sink below the rosettes. These woody chestnuts form four very sharp spines and wash ashore, where they can become very hazardous to humans, animals, and ATV/bike tires. This is one of the only aquatic invasive species brought to North America on purpose. Introduced as a showy water garden plant, water chestnuts spread to New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island via improper disposal of water gardens, sticking to watercrafts, and floating down water currents.

These nuts were black and tan, an indication that they had dried during transport, and covered in orange-ish pollen. After talking to the owners of the boat, I came to discover that the boat was last loaded into Seneca River, 3 weeks ago. So not only did these pointy little nuts travel half way across the state, but they had done so for 3 weeks. While removing the water chestnuts, I got to experience just how sharp they are. I wasn’t even poked that hard, but it was still very painful.

In all honesty, who would have know what would have happened if those chestnuts had made their way into the beautiful SLR. Would we have another ruthless invasive species infestation on our hands? This experience showed me just how important my job actually is. Whether it’s pulling a harmful plant off a trailer, or just talking to the public about our message, I would do anything to help the body of water I grew up on.


Stewards in Action: Rebecca’s Evangola State Park Invasives Control Project

Written by Rebecca Reile, Lake Ontario Boat Steward

July 9, 2014

Today I had the opportunity to work with an invasive species strike team. This group’s mission, like the Boat Stewards’, is to stop the spread of invasive species. However, instead of working with aquatic plants like Boat Stewards do, this team sticks to land. The team I worked with is based out of Allegany State Park but they travel to other parks as well. They work in these various parks to remove invasive species present there and to stop their spread. I met the group and worked with them at Evangola State Park for the day. We began by removing Reed Canary Grass, an invasive plant. This is a wetland plant that was present around a pond in the park. Weed-whackers and other tools were used to cut down the tall plants. We then spread Hibiscus seed so that a native plant could grow in that location instead.


Next we moved to another area and mapped out the location of Phragmites and Japanese Knotweed infestation sites and estimated the area that was covered by these invasive plants. Heavier equipment would be required in the removal of these plants so they would be removed at a later date. We then moved to another area and walked through a large area of the park looking for invasive plants which we then would remove. We carried various tools with us such as shovels, pickaxes, and clippers so that when we encountered any invasive species we would be able to remove them. We found and removed many Multiflora Rose, Honeysuckle, and Japanese Barberry plants. The work was not always easy; we were walking through tall grass and digging up plants and shrubs on a hot, humid day. However, the work was very interesting and I was glad to be able to help out the team for a day. On our walk through the park as we searched for invasive plants we even had the privilege of spotting a couple of coyotes, a few snakes, and two turkeys each with babies.

The day was successful as we removed numerous invasive plants from Evangola State Park. It was a great experience and I’m glad I was able to work with this group for a day. Tomorrow it’s back to the boat launch for more invasive species removal!


Photo: Steve Langdon in phragmites infestation,




Invasive Species Awareness Week

New York State Parks Blog

New York State is celebrating its first Invasive Species Awareness Week July 6-12, 2014!

Invasive species affect all New Yorkers – from hikers to highway personnel, from birders to boaters and from farmers to foresters. The mission of the New York Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) is to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action.

To celebrate the very first awareness week, Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs) across the state are hosting fun volunteer events targeting invasive species. These include awareness-raising nature walks, a garlic-mustard pesto making event, and a vigorous mile-a-minute vine removal.

To learn more about Invasive Species Awareness Week Events near you, check out the blog on the NYIS website, or the NYS Parks events calendar.


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Stewards in Action: Jake’s Eurasian Watermilfoil Project

 Written by Jake Madelone, Thousand Islands Boat Steward

July 7, 2014

         In this blog entry I will be going in depth with an invasive species project I worked on prior to my employment as a boat steward. The project I participated in consisted of coming up with sustainable and practical solutions for dealing with Eurasian Watermilfoil in Lake Norwood of Norwood, NY. I was involved with this project in the fall of 2012 and did the research through my school’s Limnology course. About twelve other students and myself all went out on a Clarkson University designated vessel on Lake Norwood and conducted the research from there.Eurwatermilfoil_pic-207x300

The research in this project consisted of collecting samples of the water and samples of the invasive milfoil plant. The water samples were used as apart of the teaching portion of the project, merely to provide us students with skills in analyzing water chemistry, but also served to prove that the aquatic conditions of the lake were suitable for milfoil proliferation. The milfoil collection was used as more proof that there was an invasive problem in the lake to begin with but also served teaching purposes as well. A variety of different instruments were also used for data collection, such as a Secchi disk, which is used to measure water transparency, and a photosynthetically active radiation sensor (PAR sensor), a sensor used to measure the wavelength of light (at 400nm to 700nm) that organisms can use to conduct photosynthesis. Analysis and data entry were performed after all field research was done.

  limnology            Following the research portion of the project, myself, along with the other students and the professor, put together a presentation to show the mayor of Norwood with what we believed to be the best option for dealing with this species. We came up with the solution of introducing the milfoil weevil, a species of weevil that specifically consumes Eurasian Watermilfoil and would provide minimum disruption to the ecosystem. Some students, including myself, were also interviewed by YNN about this issue and what our thoughts were on it. I have not heard of what Norwood decided to do after our presentation, though I hope that our words had some impact on their decision. All in all it was a very rewarding experience and helped get me to the position of boat steward that I hold today.


Photo Credits: Clarkson University (left), SLELO PRISM (right)

To learn more about how you can volunteer to control aquatic invasive species such as Eurasin Watermilfoil, visit the St. Lawrence/Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management website!