Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hurricane Irene Damages GSWA Conservation Area

While impacts from last weekend’s hurricane continue to be felt throughout New Jersey, our own beloved Conservation Management Area (CMA) within the Passaic River’s headwaters has not escaped Irene’s wrath unscathed.
The 53-acre area is a flood plain forest, which means that its resident tree and plant species have evolved to deal with fluctuating water levels. Our trees have flared-buttress roots to give them support when the river overflows its banks and the ground is flooded. The same roots penetrate deep into the soil to gain water when the land is parched. The CMA has flooded extensively during past storms—including recent nor’easters and following Hurricane Floyd in 1999—but despite the fact that our trails were constructed with flooding in mind, they could not stand up to Irene’s floodwaters.
Several trees have fallen throughout the property, including some along the deer exclosure built around the perimeter of the property. Stream crossings that remained in place during previous floods floated away under the force of this storm surge. The boardwalk sections around Zimmer Marsh, newly constructed by corporate workday volunteers this summer, have been tossed helter-skelter, a testament to the sheer volume of water dropped by this storm. The current deposited some boardwalk sections 50 yards downstream. Emergency repairs have been underway over the last few days. Thanks to the help of some stalwart GSWA volunteers, the bridge over Silver Brook has been floated and hauled upstream and back up to the riverbank where it belongs. The photographs you see here show some of the damage done to the CMA, and some of what has been done to correct the worst problems.
We still have a lot of work ahead for us before the trails are back in good shape for the fall season. We need your help as the clean-up proceeds, so why not don your hip boots and help us put GSWA’s CMA trails back together!
Please contact Hazel England at if you have some time to help us with this project.
Check out the attached photos for a sense of what this situation's been like.
Thanks to Blaine Rothauser, John Neale and Chuck Gullage for photos.

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