According to Webster’s dictionary, stewardship is the process of managing another’s affairs or property. For the Lake George Land Conservancy, stewardship is as dynamic as the species and landscapes we attempt to manage. It is not as simple as “managing” property, but as complex as understanding the web of life and what drives it.
The goal of land stewardship for the Lake George Land Conservancy is to protect the water quality of Lake George through land management practices and to sustain the existing diversity of species and natural processes that shape a landscape, or to restore them where they have been removed. Most preserves are too small and fragmented to host all natural processes to which flora and fauna are adapted and under which the species evolved. Therefore, many preserves need active biological management to maintain their native species and natural communities.
When the Lake George Land Conservancy establishes a preserve, ecological restoration is often needed to help restore areas of the property to a more natural state and to help re-establish the natural processes that should occur. Methods that have been employed to assist the restoration include the planting of native trees in former logging landings and gravel pits, hydroseeding the same areas, and controlling invasive plants.
With the help of volunteers and local school groups, native tree seedlings have been planted to help give natural forest succession a boost in areas that have been scarred by past activities. Tree species that have been planted include eastern hemlock, red oak, green ash, shagbark hickory, and red-osier dogwood. Once planted, tree tubes are placed over the trees to prevent damage from wildlife, and netting is placed over the tops of the tubes to prevent birds from flying into the tubes. Without the netting, a bird may fly down into the tubes, but the tubes are not wide enough for the birds to extend their wings and fly out, resulting in the bird being trapped.
With the help of the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, two sites protected by the LGLC, the Gull Bay Preserve and the Cat and Thomas Mountains Preserve, were hydroseeded with seeds of native plants. These two areas were previously used as gravel pits, and are susceptible to erosion because the ground cover has been removed. At the recommendation of botanists, a mixture of herbaceous plants (fox sedge, Canada wildrye, switchgrass, Virginia wildrye, and sand lovegrass) were mixed with mulch and lime and sprayed over the bare ground.
The purpose of erosion control around Lake George is to reduce the damage that water causes as it flows downhill. This can be caused by heavy or prolonged rain events, or even spring snow melt. Erosion control is always a concern when dealing with land issues, both on and off trails. Along trails, heavy storms can wash out sections of trails, or damage them severely. One method used to help divert water from the trails is the use of waterbars. Waterbars can take the form of many shapes and sizes, but the idea is always the same: attempt to re-direct flowing water off the trail. Generally, waterbars are trenches that are dug into the trails at about 30-degree angles. As water comes down the trail, and hopefully before it gains momentum, it flows into these trenches and is directed off to the side.
Erosion can also take place in areas of bare ground, such as abandoned gravel pits. In these areas, the LGLC has used hydroseeing and tree planting to help re-establish a vegetative layer that will hold the soil in place in order to avoid increased sedimentation caused by stormwater flowing down slopes.
Trail Creation and Management
The Lake George Land Conservancy’s nine parks and preserves provide over 20 miles of trails. These trails are open to the public year-round for hiking, snow-shoeing, and cross-country skiing. Some, at the Berry Pond Preserve, are also open to snowmobiling. While most trails lead visitors to views of Lake George, some take people to other destinations, such as waterfalls and beaver ponds. All trails are marked with round, colored LGLC markers along the sides of the pathways, and visitors are encouraged to pick up a trail guide at the preserve kiosks to acquaint themselves with the routes and marker colors.
Along with the planning and design aspects of creating trails, a major focus is the continual maintenance needed to make sure the trails are marked accurately and free of debris, as well as to monitor any damage done to the trails or surrounding areas by illegal use or storm damage. Downed trees are removed and brush and encroaching tree limbs are cut back to provide safe and visible walkways to guests. In places where culverts are installed under the trails, the openings of these drainage pipes must be cleaned out to ensure proper water flow. Another means of water control is to create waterbars on the slopes of the trails. See Erosion Control for additional detail on waterbars. Waterbars require annual maintenance in order to work properly. Any sediment that is deposited by runoff in these channels must be removed to provide a clear drainage path.