Friday, October 30, 2009

Scouting the Hudson

As an Eagle Scout, one of my goals at Beczak was to develop a new and dynamic scout curriculum featuring an overnight camping program here at the center. My goal became a reality as Beczak held several “A Night at the Nature Center” programs this summer and fall. Two of our pilot groups were Pack 1 from New Rochelle and Pack 47 from Yonkers. Here are their experiences.

Upon arrival the excited scouts head straight down to the river for an evening of river seining. While we do not catch dinner in our nets, getting into the water is thrilling. Once we have gotten out of our waders and rolled up the net, it is time to set camp and cook dinner. The scouts pitch tents throughout our park while the braver few plan to sleep under the stars. Meanwhile, the scoutmasters fire up the charcoal grills and cook up some hamburgers and hotdogs. Nothing beats a great barbeque in the park! After dinner has been cleaned up, the scouts build bird feeders from recycled materials achieving several requirements for the World Conservation Award. Then it is time for what is the highlight of the night for me…the campfire! Roasting marshmallows and making s’mores along the Hudson River can’t be beat! All of these activities can make a scout tired, so it is time to hit the tent. It is amazing how quiet and peaceful it is camping out in downtown Yonkers! Before the scouts head out in the morning, they participate in a park clean-up. Here, they are giving back to Beczak, as well as achieving more requirements for their World Conservation Award.

Scoutmaster Tom Flynn from Pack 47 writes: “On behalf of Cub Scout Pack 47 Yonkers, New York, I would like to thank you, Anthony and Jason for the excellent program you ran. The seining along with the bird feeders and campfire activities were thoroughly enjoyed by both the scouts and their parents. I would recommend this program to all scouting groups as it is both educational and fun. Thank you again.”

I can’t wait for the spring and encourage all scouts to spend “A Night at the Nature Center!”

Jason Muller
Educator and Outreach Coordinator

Thursday, October 22, 2009

OCTOBER Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown

This special monthly feature to The Tidal Zone blog recounts the highlights that led to Henry Hudson’s sail past the tidal marsh of what is now Yonkers’ Beczak Environmental Education Center on September 13, 1609.

October 1609—where is Henry Hudson?

The Half Moon is sailing south back down the “Muhheakunnuk” (later called the Hudson River). Hudson and his crew are cranky that the river is not a passage west to the Pacific and their bad mood bleeds into bad judgment. Near Peekskill, a native sneaks into the Half Moon’s cabin and is shot dead. The cook kills another as he attempts to climb aboard. As the ship nears Manhattan, about 100 natives chase the Half Moon by canoe. Hudson orders guns to be fired at them and several more natives are killed. The Half Moon reaches the mouth of the river on October 4 and sets sail across the Atlantic to home.

October 2009 finds the replica of the Half Moon right here, docked at the Yonkers Pier. I went aboard last week. As I walked down two small stairways, I swear I passed animal furs, muskets, sea chests, crockery and arrows. I found Captain Chip Reynolds in the hold eating stew while various guys in caps and woolen sweaters milled about. Now I know why it is called a full-scale time machine—what year was I in? Captain Reynolds will recount adventures as the 21st century’s Henry Hudson at Beczak Environmental Education Center this Saturday, October 24, at 7 PM. Life Aboard the Half Moon is $5—call 914 377-1900 x 13 for more information.

Lenore Person
Marketing and Communications Manager

Wind back the clock and follow the events that lead to the Half Moon’s sail up the Hudson River in 1609!

JANUARY Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
FEBRUARY Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
MARCH Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
APRIL Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
MAY Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
JUNE Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
JULY Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown
AUGUST Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The River That Runs Both Ways

“The first time I came to Beczak, over twenty years ago, none of this was here,” singer/songwriter/captain Rick Nestler told me, referring to Beczak’s interpretive center and thick green tidal marsh.

I called Rick Nestler to chat about his famous song “The River that Flows Both Ways” because on October 25 he will be playing it at Beczak as part of River Songs, a jam session featuring dozens of musicians performing original songs about the Hudson.

Our conversation touched on events thirty years past and showed me how Beczak Environmental Education Center is part of the Hudson River’s activist heritage, a cousin to legendary river organizations like Clearwater and Ferry Sloops and connected to Hudson River troubadours Pete Seeger and Rick Nestler.

Here’s how. Back in the 60’s when the Hudson River was very polluted and dirty, folk singer Pete Seeger had an inspiration—if people sailed on the river, they would be moved to help clean it up. After much hard work the Hudson River sloop Clearwater was built and it sailed up and down the Hudson helping to spread the word of the environmental movement. The next step, Pete and others thought, was to build smaller boats that would sail out of other river communities. The Woody Guthrie was built for Pete (eventually donated to the Beacon Sloop Club) and the new group called Ferry Sloops in Yonkers tackled building the Sojourner Truth. This was in the 1980s and it involved people like Bob Walters, Joe Beczak, Rick Nestler and others. It was finally finished and sailed, but it took 5 years! After that the energy of Yonkers’ Ferry Sloops became Beczak Environmental Education Center.

“But back to ‘The River That Flows Both Ways,’” Rick Nestler continued, “While we were building the Sojourner Truth, I helped Pete Seeger sail the Woodie Guthrie to Troy. He told a crowd there, ‘I could be happy just sailing my little boat back and forth across the Hudson River.’ And that was the inspiration for ‘The River that Flows Both Ways.’”

Dom Pirone of the Hudson River Fishermen calls Rick Nestler “a real Hudson River Troubadour.” Joe Franklin of WOR-TV calls him “the Hudson River Balladeer.” Pete Seeger calls Rick, “the Terror of the River, raffish Rick Nestler.” Come hear him on October 25 in River Songs: A Celebration of the Hudson.

“The River That Flows Both Ways”
© 1980 Rick Nestler

Once the Sachems told a story
Of a land the Great Spirit blessed
And the people followed the legend
From the great water in the west.
They they stopped where they found
That the fishing was good
The earth it was fertile, Game ran in the wood

[Refrain twice]
And I could be happy just spending my days
On the river that flows both ways.

First came the trappers, then the traders
Their own fortunes for to find
And the valley treated them kindly
So the farmers followed close behind
Then the sloops sailed well laden 'round the batter
With flour from Yonkers, fur from Albany

[Repeat Refrain]

Writers and painters have shown its beauty
In its waters and on the shore
While musicians sing its praises
And keep alive the river's lore
with the sun settin' golden o'er the Palisades
Afternoon ends and the daylight fades

[Repeat Refrain]

Maybe it's the moonshine; maybe it's the starlight
Reflected in Haverstraw Bay
Maybe it's the fog that rolls off the highlands
At the break of a brand new day
But apple cider and pumpkins, strawberries and corn
Make the people of the river glad they've been born.

[Repeat Refrain]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oyster Gardening - Month Four: Students Observe the Oysters

Beczak Environmental Education Center, located on the Yonkers riverfront, is part of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program. In June 2009, six hundred “seed” oysters from Baykeepers’ Governors Island site were resettled in a floating cage hung off a piling in the Hudson River behind Beczak. Fifty of the oysters are in a sample study and kept in a separate cage. Educator Vicky Garufi checks them monthly to report back to NY/NJ Baykeeper. Watch this blog for her updates.

My month four oyster check-up coincided with a September Catch of the Day seining program with a fourth grade class from Christ the King School in Yonkers led by teacher Kathryn Burke. The class was eager to experience all the river has to offer. They wore their waders proudly as they dragged the net through the water, catching blue crabs, shrimp and various slimy fish.

As an added bonus to the program, I waded out to a piling in the Hudson and hauled up Beczak’s oyster cage and opened it on a work table. The students picked their way through the muddy oysters, counting and sorting 12 empty shells from the live oysters. Nine shells were empty last month, which means that three more oysters have died since August. Using rulers, the students measured the biggest oyster at 50 mm and smallest oyster at 30 mm. Boys and girls were elbow deep in mud, and excited to see the tiny amphipods, shrimp and mud crabs creep their way out of the oyster pile.

After all the oysters were recorded, the class ventured back toward the marsh to watch me crawl into the river to set the cage again. The tide had risen since I first pulled the cage and I literally had to swim in my waders to reach the piling! The students cheered me on as I placed the oysters safely back to the water. I was soaked! But it was worth it to see the smiles and joy on the children’s faces. Mission Accomplished!

Vicky Garufi
Director of Education and Outreach

Find out more about Beczak’s oyster gardening program. Click on these links below.

Month One: The oysters arrive
Month Three: Oyster Check-up