Kayaking

Exploring the Former Fresh Kills Landfill via Kayak

By Murray Lantner

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

On a grey, windy and cool day a group of over 20, including EPAers from several Region 2 divisions, including our Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, and their friends and family took to the estuarine inlet within the former Fresh Kills Landfill site for a one-of-a-kind paddling trip. The trip was organized by Maureen Krudner, Regional Green Infrastructure Coordinator and Staten Islander – through the EPA Region 2 Emerging Leaders Network – and was hosted and outfitted by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation which provided kayaks and an amazing guide, Chris, who provided an informal informational tour. We started the trip with a short visit to the NYC Department of Sanitation Visitor’s Center at the former landfill where we learned about the decades-long effort to transform the Fresh Kills landfill into a 2,200 acre city park some three times the size of Central Park.

The plan for the park is to combine state-of-the-art ecological restoration techniques with extraordinary settings for recreation, public art, and facilities for many sports and programs. While nearly 45 percent of the site was once used for landfilling operations, the remainder of the site is currently composed of wetlands, open waterways, and unfilled lowland areas. We also learned that the methane gas that is generated in the landfill is collected, purified and sold to the gas company where it is transmitted to over 20,000 Staten Island homes. This landfill gas collection process not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions by converting methane into fuel but also has generated approximately $3-$5 million a year in revenue for the city over the last decade. The Fresh Kills Park is a great example of how New York City is embracing sustainability, both through mitigation and climate adaptation strategies.

Out on the water, the tides were quite high so the restored Spartina alterniflora or saltmarsh cordgrass was partially submerged and only the tops were visible, and in some cases we could paddle right over it. The city has a nearby nursery that grows plugs of cordgrass for use in salt marsh restoration projects, which did seem to be taking root here – a great sign for the park.

The Fresh Kills landfill paddle was truly a treat – open waters, salt marsh, surrounded by mostly vegetated hill slopes (the former garbage dumps) – making for a surprisingly peaceful and natural experience. This is a fantastic area to explore and, once there, it’s quite easy to forget the past use of the site and to look forward to the fascinating restoration and parkland that is being created on top of the landfill. To help facilitate the park creation process Region 2 ELN raised about $200 that was donated to the Fresh Kills Park Alliance. Thanks again to Maureen, EPA ELN, NYC Parks and Recreation and the NYC Dept. of Sanitation for a wonderful experience, I encourage you all to check out the park, and explore future opportunities for educational adventures along the Fresh Kills.

About the Author: Murray Lantner is an Environmental Engineer in EPA’s Water Compliance Branch who conducts enforcement of wastewater and stormwater permits under the Clean Water Act at EPA’s Manhattan office. Murray has worked for the EPA for 20 years, and started in EPA’s Chicago office. Murray enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and paddling. Murray holds a B.S in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fresh Kills Park: A Kayaking Adventure

By Maureen Krudner

Fresh Kills Park launch site

Fresh Kills Park launch site

What do a great blue heron, Victory Boulevard, mussels anchored in mud below the high tide line and an apartment building have in common?  They can all be seen from a kayak in the waterways of Fresh Kills Park. The tour, organized through NY/NJ Baykeeper and led by the NYC Parks Department,  was an amazing three hour trip through the wetlands, surrounded by rolling hills of former trash, now covered with lush greenery and not a foul odor in the air. We passed a 2.1 acre wetland restoration in progress, where goats were used to clear phragmites and native wetland plantings will soon begin. We spotted an osprey nest; two babies were visible in the nest, but so was blue frayed roped and netting material. Several other birds were seen, including at least 15 snowy egrets and as a special treat, a great blue heron swooped down to grab a bite to eat.

For many years, Fresh Kills was probably the most well known location on Staten Island, housing the largest landfill in the world. In March 2001, the last barge delivered trash to the landfill and an amazing transformation began.

Paddling in Richmond Creek

Paddling in Richmond Creek

The New York City Parks Department now has responsibility for implementing the plan to develop the 2,200 acre park. The new Fresh Kills Park will provide many opportunities for outdoor recreation including kayaking, biking, skating and birding. The park has also been designed to accommodate cultural and educational programs. While completion of the park is expected to take 30 years, some sections are currently open and others will be opened in phases over the coming years. A Sneak Peak is scheduled for September 29, 2013. This promises to be a great event.

For more info visit: http://www.nycgovparks.org/park-features/freshkills-park.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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On The Green Road: Wanted: Seal Instructor for Environmental Education

About the Author: Dr. Dale Haroski is the science advisor to the Office of Public Affairs where she translates science for the public, and more recently, has begun exploring marine mammal outreach opportunities. As a new hobby, she enjoys pointing and yelling “SEAL!” when her fiancé ventures near any type of water.

Kayakers on waterWe had our wetsuits. We had our paddles. We were ready. “One last thing,” said our perky kayaking instructor. “The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that you stay 100 feet away from any marine mammals so don’t approach any closer than that. They can be inquisitive, however, so if they approach you just remain quiet, avoid eye contact, and they will eventually leave.” Ok. No problem. Avoid marine mammals. Let’s paddle.

On a recent family vacation to California my fiancé (also an EPA employee) and I decided to take his eight-year-old daughter kayaking in Monterey Bay. His daughter and I quickly set out in our two person kayak and charted a course for the kelp forest.

Soon, we spotted a harbor seal attempting to climb onto a small piece of driftwood. “Aw look! A little seal!” we sighed as it disappeared from sight. Then, out of nowhere, the little seal head popped up directly next to me and peered at me with those big soulful eyes. “OOOHHHH LOOOOK!!!!!” I squealed in a high pitch normally reserved for puppy and kitten sightings. “It’s right here! It’s soooo cute!” I shouted to no one in particular. He circled around us a few times and disappeared once again.

My fiancé started to put away his camera when the little guy popped up behind his kayak. “He’s behind you!” we yelled! Then, right before our stunned eyes, the little seal jettisoned himself out of the water and attempted to haul out onto the back of my fiancé’s kayak! We howled with laughter at my fiancé’s panic as his kayak rolled from side to side. The seal soon gave up and we breathed a sigh of relief while wiping away the tears of laughter.

Just when we thought it was safe two little eyes popped up again behind his kayak. “PADDLE HONEY PAAAADDDDDLLLLLE!” I shouted, thinking that a moving target would be harder to hit. Scenes of Jaws flitted through my head. Finally the little seal gave up and all I could think was “Great. I can see the headlines now: EPA employees found in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.” It wasn’t our fault officer, really!

Kayaking was enjoyable after that but it made me realize that environmental regulations really only work if people know about them and follow them. Now if only someone could educate the marine mammals we’d be all set.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Shall We Gather At The River?

About the author: Lars Wilcut joined EPA’s Beach Team in 2004. He helps oversee EPA’s beach monitoring and notification grants to coastal states and territories.

A couple weeks ago I went to see a baseball game at Nationals Park, which has some great views of the Anacostia River. As I stood there gazing up and down the river, I thought about how nice it is to be on the water.

Lars Wilcut in a kayakI love kayaking, and I paddled the Anacostia even before I joined the Office of Water. From my experience with water quality standards issues, I know how far the river is from meeting its designated uses. I still like it, though. It can be so tranquil out on the water, despite the bustle on the other side of the tree-lined riverbanks. Often, I was the only person on the river, feeling acutely like everyone else thought the river was a nuisance and didn’t want to be on or near it. I didn’t think much about the river before I started kayaking. Once I did get out there, though, I began to value it as an important part of our community that I wanted to protect.

So, if I could come to appreciate the Anacostia, can’t other people as well? Building public facilities like ballparks along urban waterways is a big step toward getting people to value their local water resources. What a great thing to have people come out of the ballpark after a game and stroll along the river! When a city reclaims its urban waterway as a community gathering place and surrounds it with public green space and ballparks, those waterways become as much a symbol of the city as the local sports teams.

Through the water quality standards-setting process, we can all participate in protecting our waters. Standards help define what we want our waters to be used for and how we want to make that happen. The people I work with are an integral part of the water quality standards process: EPA reviews and approves state water quality standards to make sure they meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Here in DC, as I return to Nationals Park over the coming seasons, I’m hopeful that we’ll see an improvement in the Anacostia’s water quality; I know EPA will do its part. Then, the next time I’m out there paddling, I won’t be the only one on the water.

Find out about your state’s water quality standards, from EPA’s Repository of water quality standards.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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