Did you know…?
Anyone who enjoys the Croton River gorge and bay for hiking, swimming, birding, fishing, paddle sports, or just watching nature should read the Indian Brook-Croton Gorge Watershed Conservation Action Plan today, which Westchester County has just released.
The thirty-five year old idea for a Croton River Compact among the Croton Gorge communities will get a big lift from the data in this plan. Ultimately, the goal is to guide future development of these 3,400 acres with nature always in mind.
We must strike a careful balance between the human need for the built environment, such housing and roads, and human need for the critical services that nature herself provides, such clean water and air.
The Action Plan calls for the five communities that share Croton River Gorge and Indian Brook watersheds to commit to improving the health of these waters. Problems include untreated outfalls that enter the Croton River, urban development pressures as land values rise, municipal road treatment practices, steep slope erosion, and degraded wetlands overrun with invasive species.
This Indian Brook-Croton Gorge watershed is over three miles long and contains 5.3 square miles that cross many local political boundaries. A dozen different public agencies currently have some level of jurisdiction over parts of this local watershed.
The Croton Gorge Five includes the Towns of Cortlandt, New Castle, and Ossining, the Villages of Croton-on-Hudson and Ossining. Conflicting rules and land use policies for the gorge cross all levels of government from its state and county properties to those within the five surrounding municipalities.
The gorge’s crazy quilt of competing regulations was the subject of a prior column (see: The Croton River’s Crazy Quilt and Her Stakeholder Jumble, May 24, 2007).
The Village of Croton-on-Hudson was well represented on the Steering Committee that advised the County, including our village engineer, Dan O’Connor, head of public works, Ken Kraft, Waterfront Advisory chair, Fran Allen, and Trustee Charlie Kane who also leads our Croton River Compact committee of volunteers.
The 80 page Action Plan contains a summary of the state of the watershed, followed by detailed recommendations, and a call to action. The Action Plan’s primary goal is stimulating the five gorge communities to reach agreement that each will work together to implement as many recommendations as possible.
The plan’s very first recommendation is to conduct streamwalks along all five streams that lead to the Croton River. Volunteers would be trained to assess a stream’s overall health by walking a segment of the stream and gathering information on existing physical conditions of in-stream and streamside characteristics.
The next political step is gathering all the key policy makers and conservation advisors from each of the Croton Gorge communities to begin work on implementing the 29 recommendations. These actions include everything from reducing storm water runoff that pollutes the river to preserving the rich variety of flora and fauna that relies on the river.
Good will exists among all the governments and non-profit partners to join forces with each other. But the effort will require many grass-roots volunteers as well. Streamwalk anyone (.pdf download, 17 pages)?
Editor’s Note: The author is a former Village of Croton-on-Hudson Trustee who served three terms from 2001 to 2007.
PS The Croton Gorge Action Plan is one of several in an ambitious county-wide effort. For example, New York City’s Croton Reservoir watershed also has a protection plan. The 16 page Executive Summary of this “Croton Plan” is fruitful reading for those of us living downstream from the Dam. The reservoir is under mandate to provide a steady water flow to feed the Croton River. We all need that water to be as clean as possible when it comes over the spillway.