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Latest phase in the restoration of Peconic Land Trust’s Widow’s Hole Preserve in Greenport, the Planting of Beach Grasses for the “Living Shoreline,” Completed

June 24, 2019

The Peconic Estuary Program has funded the salt marsh restoration work being carried out by Peconic Land Trust with technical assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program.

June 24, 2019. Southampton, NY. Peconic Land Trust announces the latest phase in the restoration of the Widow’s Hole Preserve, located on 4th Street in Greenport, has been completed last week with the support of the Peconic Estuary Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program, and volunteers from the community and students from the Greenport Elementary School.

Over the past few months, construction and restoration activities have been underway on a section of Peconic Land Trust’s Widow’s Hole Preserve in efforts to increase the resiliency of the shoreline to erosion, while also increasing the overall habitat value by the construction of a “Living Shoreline.” Restoration activities were focused on approximately 0.4 acres of shoreline and adjacent upland. With funding from the Peconic Estuary Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program worked in partnership with Peconic Land Trust to design a “Living Shoreline” project that included two main components:

  • the construction of a new beach towards the bay, which includes smooth cordgrass marsh (Spartina) plants that are adapted to living with the tides and salt from the bay’s brackish water.
  • the construction of a new dune towards the upland, which includes American beachgrass plants that are adapted to thriving in exposed dune habitat.

“The shoreline restoration at Widow’s Hole Preserve is a multi-phased project that includes materials intended to significantly increase the resiliency of the shoreline – including the addition of sand, cobblestone and rock for shoreline grading – as well as planting of Spartina -- over the past few months. Our sincere thanks go to the Peconic Estuary Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program, and the many volunteers who have come out and joined us during this phase of the project. The plantings and shoreline grading are critical to the overall project, helping to stabilize the beach face and crest of the dune,” said Matt Swain, Director of Stewardship and Geographic Information Systems, Peconic Land Trust.

Spartina, commonly known as cordgrass or cord-grass, is a grass found in coastal salt marshes. The grass is a native plant and has been naturally growing in the wetlands surrounding the Preserve. Spartina plants that were growing in the project area at Widow’s Hole were transferred from the preserve to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learn Center at Cedar Beach in Southold where they were “heeled-in” last winter. This process multiplied and strengthened the plants, which have now been replanted as part of the restoration process.

Community involvement has been a priority in the project. Volunteers assisted with the beach grass plantings in April, and on June 10, students from Greenport Elementary School helped plant the Spartina at the site.

Joining the students on June 10 were:

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski; Vanessa Rojano representing Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming; Greenport Village Trustee Peter Clarke; Greenport Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips; Greenport Village Administrator Paul Pallas; Angela Noncarrow, Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo; Frank Castelli, Chief Environmental Analyst and Jennifer McGivern, Environmental Planner from the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning, Division of Water Quality; and Pat Aitken from the Peconic Estuary Protection; and Kathleen M. Fallon, PhD, Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist for New York Sea Grant.

"In the face of sea level rise, a question comes to mind as to how we are going to adapt and create resilient shorelines. By creating a natural environment or “Living Shoreline” at the water's edge, we produce habitat for wildlife, stabilize our shorelines with extensive root systems, and provide opportunity for filtration of nutrients and pollution before it enters our bays. This is a more beneficial approach than hardening our shorelines with bulkheads and seawalls that cause loss of habitat and change sand movement patterns that can ultimately worsen erosion," says Lauren Scheer, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Peconic Estuary Program.

“This project, the combined work of so many organizations will provide a model for restoring and protecting our fragile coastline using alternatives to hardening the shoreline to mitigate coastal erosion and allowing natural processes that trap sediment, filter runoff while maintaining the beach and wetland habitats,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski.

"The positive work being done by Peconic Land Trust, Peconic Estuary Program, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County preserves our Village of Greenport maritime history for future generations and provides opportunity to educate our youth and adults about the Village waterfront and marine environment,” said Greenport Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips.

"Living Shorelines are excellent examples of what can be done to protect our shorelines from erosion while avoiding the detrimental environmental effects of hardening the shoreline with artificial structures like bulkheads. The environmental benefits of using native plants and materials to protect our shorelines clearly illustrate how important it is for us to use these methods whenever and wherever possible,” said Frank Castelli, Chief Environmental Analyst, Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning. “The Living Shoreline being planted in the Village of Greenport is a great project that will complement and add to the existing marsh. Hopefully there will be many more of these projects throughout the Peconic Estuary.”

"Creating opportunities for children to connect with nature is never wasted time. I have enjoyed the collaboration with Denise Markut from Peconic Land Trust throughout the past 4-5 years and look forward to years to come," said Teacher Stephanie Pawlik from the Greenport Elementary School. "Introducing the idea of stewardship and conservation at Widow's Hole Preserve to my 5th grade students, helps them to learn about the positive impacts that humans can have on the environment. These students are learning not only about stewardship, but also about the wonders of the natural world in this most beautiful place that we are lucky to call home."

“Ask any scientist, conservationist, farmer, or environmentalist why they chose their line of work and they will often share a story in their childhood or youth and a connection to nature that was their inspiration in choosing their career,” said Senior Manager of Stewardship, Denise Markut. “Mrs. Pawlik’s 5th grade students have been stewarding this preserve and learning the nature of this place through the outdoor classroom. Involving the Greenport Elementary 5th graders has been vitally important to the restoration and future of Widow’s Hole Preserve. And we hope that it will be an inspiration for them in their future careers and lives.”

About Widow’s Hole Preserve

Widow's Hole Preserve is 2.4 acres shoreline and wildlife habitat owned by the Peconic Land Trust located on the southeastern corner of Fourth and Clark Streets. Donated to the Trust in 2012 by ExxonMobil, the preserve was once a storage facility operated by the company from the mid-1920s until its closure in the mid-1980s. The facility operated with six above-ground tanks that stored fuel oil, kerosene and gasoline. All products were delivered to the terminal by barge. The wharf, storage tanks, and buildings were removed shortly after operations ceased, and environmental remediation was completed in 2002. The property extends along Greenport Harbor, and provides wildlife habitat that the Trust is working to enhance. An easement on the property was granted to the Town of Southold simultaneous to the Trust’s acquisition.

About the Peconic Land Trust

Founded in 1983, Peconic Land Trust conserves Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage. Since its inception, the nonprofit Trust has worked conscientiously with landowners, communities, municipalities, partner organizations, and donors, to conserve over 12,000 acres of land on Long Island. The Trust’s professional staff carries out the necessary research and planning to identify and implement alternatives to outright development. While working to conserve the productive farms, watersheds, woodlands, and beachfront of Long Island, the Trust is also protecting the unique rural heritage and natural resources of the region. For more information about the Peconic Land Trust, visit peconiclandtrust.org.

About Peconic Estuary Program

The Peconic Estuary received designation as an “Estuary of National Significance” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992, and the Peconic Estuary Program, a collaborative partnership of local, state, and federal governments, citizens, environmental groups, businesses, industries, and academic institutions, was established to protect and restore the Peconic Estuary. The Peconic Estuary Program is one of 28 National Estuary Programs around the country supported by the U.S. EPA's Clean Water Act. For more information about the Peconic Estuary Program, visit PeconicEstuary.org.

About Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program

The Marine Program, which became part of Cornell Cooperative Extension in 1985, is known and respected nationally and internationally. Its mission is to protect our waters, providing a clean environment for our fish, fowl and plants. Our researchers and educators are busy working to inform Long Islanders how we can each do our part to safeguard our environment. Projects have been designed to bring back our once thriving eelgrass and shell fish populations, ensure our commercial fishing industry continues to thrive while limiting bycatch, provide public education about environmental consequences of storm water runoff, and introduce our young people to marine sciences and marine life on Long Island. For more information about The Marine Program at CCE, visit ccesuffolk.org/marine

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