New Ownership – Right to Work!

August 15, 2023

By Cara Gentry

Volunteers pulled water chestnut by hand and placed in their boats. Nick Sackett heads back to shore with a full kayak.

Following the transfer of the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary to the Wallkill Valley Land Trust in May of this year, we started incorporating the management of the new public space into our routine. We began a monthly volunteer work day on the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m., volunteers get together to help with projects such as trimming of overgrowth, removal of invasive species, and assessing the infrastructure.

One of the first tasks was to produce an updated trail map showing the various trails and their associated names. The trails are all named after family members from the Nyquist family who donated the property to the WVLT. Their non-profit Nyquist foundation created and installed the new signs prior to the transfer of the land to the WVLT. The trails have migrated and changed slightly over the years as the landscape and flooding requires. We wanted a new trail map to show off the location of the trails and their names.

WVLT Board Member Brad Barclay (right), Bridget Barclay (left) and Dodger Barclay (center) work together to pull water chestnut from the Oxbow.

Recent SUNY New Paltz graduate, Lucas Hufnagel, had been volunteering for the WVLT to help with small mapping projects in order to practice his GIS (Geographical Information Systems) skills while searching for a job. With a need for an updated trail map, we asked Lucas if he would like to take on a larger project and complete this map for us, beginning with walking the trails using GPS equipment and ending with designing the beautiful new trail map available on our website. Lucas also created a bench inventory map for the sanctuary, to help us assess how many benches were in the park and what conditions they were in so we knew which benches needed repairs or replacement. Based on this map, the WVLT is now developing a bench replacement and installation policy for the sanctuary.

WVLT Coordinator of Land Stewardship Cara Gentry transferring water chestnut from a canoe to the truck

Invasive species management has also been a goal for the land trust. Local resident, Cara Lee, brought to our attention that the aquatic invasive plant known as water chestnut. She stated that “Invasive water chestnut in the Nyquist Sanctuary oxbow is a serious threat to the open water habitat that sustains wildlife in the oxbow – herons, otters, and turtles to name a few – and can be best controlled by hand- pulling”.

On August 5th, the WVLT teamed up with local residents and volunteers to perform our first ever water chestnut removal event. Cara Lee said “Those who answered the call for a ‘weed pull’ with their kayaks and canoes removed three truckloads of aquatic weed and had a good time doing it!  We learned a lot and next year will start earlier in the season, before the plants get so big and set their floating seed.” Volunteers paddled in the Oxbow Lake, scooping up water chestnut and placing it in baskets in their boats. Once full, the paddlers made their way to the shore where volunteers were staged to help unload the boats and pile the debris into the back of a pickup truck. The water chestnut was then taken to the Gardens for Nutrition upper compost pile.

WVLT Land Steward Beth Rigby maneuvering her kayak full of water chestnut back towards the shore.

Following the event, WVLT met with the NYS DEC Region 3 Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, Ashley Morris, to review the extent of the water chestnut infestation and develop a plan for removal with the goal of eradication. Ashely told us that the seeds are viable for 5-7 years and holding removal events, like the one we just hosted, starting in June and proceeding through mid-July over the next several years, we should be able to notice a significant impact. The DEC is also willing to collaborate with the WVLT and local residents to continue with water chestnut removal efforts in 2024.

The WVLT will continue to hold the First Friday volunteer work days in the Sanctuary as long as the weather cooperates. The next work day is September 1 st and will likely be trimming back overgrowth and re-securing a bridge that moved slightly during the last flooding event. While October’s work day tasks are still to be determined, we have scheduled some bog bridge building for the November 3 rd work day. If you would like to join our efforts please contact us at