All of us at GSWA hope this note finds you safe and recovering as quickly as possible from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.
Storm damage has taken a tremendous toll on the organization's projects and operations. The continuing power outage at our offices in Jockey Hollow prevents staff from accessing valuable work resources, and has interrupted the regular fall event schedule. Most notably delayed is the introduction of our new State of the Streams report for the Great Swamp Watershed. Director of Water Quality Programs Laura Kelm was to present initial findings from this remarkable new report at a November 13 Breakfast Briefing. This event will be rescheduled for a later date, and the complete report will be released in December.
Damage sustained by GSWA's conservation infrastructure is more troubling. High winds and tree falls not only took out power lines in Jockey Hollow, they also wiped out much of the recently expanded deer exclosure at 568 Tempe Wick Road. The exclosure demonstrates what understory regeneration can look like when invasives are removed and native understory is replenished in the absence of deer; a step essential for improving local biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
The forest restoration clock suffered similar setbacks at GSWA's Conservation Management Area (CMA) in Harding Township. Damage to the deer exclosure at the CMA is so extensive that months of volunteer work may be required to close all of the newly opened gaps in the perimeter fence.
Several large trees also fell across various portions of the CMA newly expanded trail system. These obstructions must be removed before the area becomes fully accessible, and new trails will need to be blazed around those tree falls that are too big to shift. The post-storm health of hundreds of saplings and other new native shrubs our volunteers added to the CMA this summer and fall remains uncertain. A survey of these young plant beds will take place over the coming days and weeks and the deer fence will need to be repaired.
The following email sent on November 5 by CMA first-responder and GSWA Board Member John Neale vividly describes the devastation encountered while moving from the front gate of the CMA to the back where GSWA land opens onto our adjoining property. (This email has been edited for clarity.)
I drove to the CMA today, and was detoured a few times, as there are still closed roads, trees and poles still in the roadway.
Supplies from the Spooky Swamp Walk were unscathed, and I took some time to sort them out.
Now the bad news:
The CMA has a lot of damage; the deer fence is down in a number of locations [thanks to] large blow-downs. There are a number of trees blown across the trails as well. I cleared what I could but it's overwhelming.
There are a number of trees blocking the CMA entrance...one cedar by the new benches is down too.
A very large tree on the bank of the [S]ilver [B]rook came down across the brook towards the trail...After you cross [the brook], there is a large blow-down across the trail.
Going straight along the boards from the bridge just, as you take a left turn and go straight, [there is] a very large tree [blown down and the deer] fence is totally down there too.
[At] the back of the property, the fence was taken out by another very large tree.
The fence is down along the mosquito ditch [thanks to] another tree, [this one is] not far up from the [maintenance]shed.
These are just a few I [mention], there are more down throughout the property.
I walked the [adjacent] property which also has damage, but [is] not as bad...there are a number of large blow-downs with 8-foot root balls just along the trail which we can get around, [and] then the trail on right side has two very large trees blocking the trail [which will] need to be removed.
There are also some hangers and leaners across these trails too. It's a shame to see so many trees in this condition.
I hope everyone is getting through this OK.
Our sentiments echo John's: All of us at GSWA hope you are getting through this okay. We also hope that once your own needs have been met you will consider lending your time and your resources to help us rebuild what we all worked so hard to create. Please consider making a small extra donation to GSWA right now, or as you prepare to make your year-end gift. And please consider lending a hand at an upcoming volunteer event. We have a lot of repairs to make and could use all the hands we can get.
Updates on recovery efforts and rebuilding events will be published as they become available. Please stay tuned and stay safe!