The Habitat Committee, now a sub-committee of the Conservancy, is completing the second year of a project that has revitalized much of the Parade Ground and Airport area, by replacing invasive plants with native grasses. The results have been dramatic in this sixty-five acre area, which is the largest grassland on Fishers Island. The grassland had been choked with vines and scrub and was depleted of wildlife. It is now covered with beautiful native grasses teeming with butterflies and grasshoppers and birds.
Visitors are welcome – paths have been mowed to allow easy access from Equestrian Avenue. A rare sedge wren was heard on the grounds this Summer; and most recently, there are reports of whippoorwill calls. Ground-nesting whippoorwills have not been heard or sighted on Fishers in years. Keep your eyes and ears open.
This work was begun in the Fall of 2010 by the ad hoc Habitat Committee, led by Joe Henderson. Joe enlisted a broad group of dedicated Fishers Island individuals and organizations, who banded together to create a project that demonstrates what can be done throughout the Island to beat back the invasives that have choked out so much of the Island’s natural wildlife.
The Ferry District adopted a three-year-plan with the objectives of: (i) restoring a grassland habitat that can be managed in a cost-effective way; (ii) increasing the safety of the Airport and Parade Ground by improving aircraft visibility and controlling access to airport runways and Fort Wright concrete structures; and (iii) increasing public access to the improved habitat by enlarging the walking path system throughout the Parade Ground and creating directed access to Race Point.
The Fishers Island Fire Department has carried out the burns essential to maintaining the grasslands.
The Fishers Island Conservancy joined the Ferry District in funding heavy concrete and stone removal in 2011, and native grass seeding.
The Fishers Island Sportsmen’s Club provided specialized mowing, disking and reseeding machinery.
The Fishers Island Club helped propel the effort and reseeded the school athletic field. Donnie Beck, Larry Horn, Jimmy Ski, Greg Cypherd, J.R. Edwards, Louie Horn, Don Murray, Don Brown, Dave Mcintyre and others worked tirelessly and selflessly, clearing the invasive scrub, mowing and seeding the first half of the sixty-five acres in 2010-2011 and then the second half in 2011-2012.
Milkweed for butterflies, wild iris, native warm season grasses and cool season grasses are seen in the “After” pictures above, providing a sustainable multi-culture grassland habitat for nature’s creatures. The work continues. The Conservancy has given the effort permanence by adopting the Habitat Committee as a standing, ongoing sub-committee.
A battle has been won at the Parade Ground and Airport, but the war continues. This is an encouraging demonstration that we can restore our island working together. The Habitat Committee is in discussions to expand its efforts to other areas of the Island.
The Conservancy plans to prepare and distribute instructional materials describing how the techniques demonstrated on these grounds can be used by individual landowners to stop the spread of invasives and reclaim their property.
In 2011, the Conservancy made a donation to the Fishers Island Recreation Path for the purpose of managing and removing invasive plant species along the path.
To date, these grant funds have been used in conjunction with the path’s weekly scheduled landscape maintenance to remove invasive weeds from the retaining wall along the path near Middle Farms Pond, to clear existing mature trees of invasive vines such as poison ivy and bull briar, and to promote the health of several mature native trees through pruning.
For those who use and enjoy the recreation path, the Conservancy’s work is most notable where mature existing trees have been highlighted and brought to the forefront through the removal of invasive shrubs and vines that were jeopardizing their health and obscuring their presence along the path.