Written By Bill Kellner.
Posted on April 29th, 2021.
Yorktown’s popular Sylvan Glen Park Preserve has a rich land use history that has shifted from mining to hiking trails, but one thing that has remained constant through the years is the need for a strong riparian zone.
Yorktown’s Sylvan Glen Park Preserve occupies over 300 acres of rocky hills east of Stony Street and north of Rt. 202. Sylvan Glen is well known as the site of the former quarry, which supplied the granite for the building of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan. Remnants of the quarry may still be spotted along the park’s trails. These remnants include abandoned machinery, cables, and cut pieces of granite.
The park also preserves important woodland and riparian habitat, which serve as a wildlife corridor as well as helping to maintain water quality. Several south-flowing streams can be found in the valleys between Sylvan Glen’s rocky ridges. Water from these streams makes its way to the New Croton Reservoir, an important source of drinking water for New York City and Westchester.
The park’s western-most stream was dammed in days gone by to form Turtle Pond, which is adjacent to the unpaved parking lot near the Morris Lane entrance to the park. In 2014, Yorktown opened its first dog park on 1.3 acres of land in Sylvan Glen, a short stroll from the Morris Lane parking lot. Visitors to the dog park probably took little notice of the triangle-shaped piece of land between the parking lot and Turtle Pond. If they did take a closer look at this small part of the park, they would have seen a wet meadow under attack from invasive plants like multiflora rose and invasive insects like the emerald ash borer, which kills ash trees.
To help combat these problems, Yorktown’s Tree Conservation Advisory Commission (TCAC) contacted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2015 to see if the town would be eligible for a grant from the state’s Trees for Tribs program to do a tree planting in Sylvan Glen. Trees for Tribs supplies native trees and shrubs to replant the land around waterbodies, which helps keep pollution out of water and restores forest habitat. The state put the TCAC in touch with the Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC), which coordinates Trees for Tribs planting inside the New York City Watershed. With help of the WAC’s Watershed Forester, we identified the wet meadow between Turtle Pond and the parking lot as a good spot to plant trees, with the goal of enhancing this key riparian habitat. Supported by the Yorktown Parks and Recreation Department and the Recreation Commission, which oversees all of the town’s parklands, the TCAC submitted the town’s application for the Sylvan Glen Planting.
To generate interest in our Trees for Tribs Planting, the TCAC decided to include our Trees for Tribs planting at Sylvan Glen in our annual Arbor Day commemoration. On planting day, we had a great turnout to help get the trees planted. WAC personnel and TCAC members were supplemented by volunteers young and old, including three members of Yorktown’s Town Board and our Town Clerk. The WAC Forester instructed our volunteers in tree planting techniques and how to place special tubes around the newly-planted trees to protect them from hungry deer.
Tree Tubes are used at Sylvan Glen to deter deer from eating the baby trees.
We also were given signs to inform park visitors about the Trees for Tribs program and how these plantings improve the local environment.
Educational signage at Sylvan Glen
The trees planted in Sylvan Glen have done well for the most part. Supplemental Trees for Tribs plantings were done on the site in 2016 and 2020. This work included replacing the few trees that did not survive and removing invasive plants that threaten to over-crowd our trees.
The TCAC has done a total of four Trees for Tribs planting with the WAC—the three above-mentioned Sylvan Glen plantings and an additional one in Yorktown’s Patriot Garden. It’s been a great partnership that has served to improve our parklands, maintain water quality, and educate the public about the importance of healthy stream corridors.
Pictures from planting day on May 7th, 2016
For more information/stories on Trees for Tribs check out the following: