October 26, 2021

Legislators tour Dwyer park to see conservation efforts

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Amanda Barber, middle, gives a guided tour of the Dwyer Memorial Park’s Upper Little York Lake to Cortland County legislators Linda Jones, left, and Kevin Fitch, right.

The wooden dock swayed as the Cortland County officials boarded a boat to spend an afternoon in the sun away from the Cortland County Office Building. It was work-related. Honest.

The legislators and other officials toured Dwyer Memorial Park in Preble, led by the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is marking its 75th anniversary this month.

When district officials were unable to give a presentation at last month’s Cortland County Legislature meeting, they invited legislators to visit the park to see the programs for themselves. Five of the 17 legislators joined Barber and her staff.

“We wanted to get some legislators to come out and meet with us, and give a chance for our staff to be able to talk about what they do and be recognized for it,” said Amanda Barber, the district manager. “We’ve done a bunch of projects around and near the park and the lake. It’s just a great place to be able to showcase some of our projects and activities.”

The tour featured a planting of young willow trees, a section of hydroseeding efforts for grass growth, protective fencing around Great White trilliums, a species of wildflower that Legislator Linda Jones (R-Homer) said is likely to become threatened or rare in the near future.

The flower is already considered vulnerable in Canada, and hasn’t been seen in Maine in more than 20 years.

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Great White Trilliums, a wildflower that is protected by the New York state Department of Conservation, growing naturally in Dwyer Memorial Park.

The tour group was also taken on a boat ride around Upper Little York Lake to learn about the herbicides used to control weeds in the lake.

Cathy McGraft, a water quality specialist, summarized the district’s Aquatic Invasive Plants Survey and explained how moving a boat from one body of water to another could bring unwanted hitchhikers.

“The goal was to map what was here and find any species that we didn’t know were here,” McGraft said. “The earlier you can catch them, the higher probability that you can treat them and remove them before they become established.”

The park’s boat-cleaning station helps boaters ensure they’re not bringing any invasive species with them.

“It’s about what we can do to protect ourselves, because it’s not just us, it’s everybody and everything in the lake,” said Don Fisher, treasurer of the Little York Lake Preservation Society.

Barber said the park is reopening a few weeks early this year as people prepare for Memorial Day weekend after last year’s festivities were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The district will make resources available to teach boaters how to decontaminate their boats and protect the water, and to bring attention to the district’s conservation efforts at the park.

“The whole reason that people come here is to enjoy the natural resources it provides,” Barber said. “The work we do is important to prevent erosion and reduce nonpoint source pollution. It allows the stream to look the way it does — where kids want to go in, wade around and play, where people want to go fishing and enjoy boating.”

Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler Colon, Truxton), presented the conservation team with a proclamation.

“Soil and water and other natural resources are a central part of our daily lives, and the wise use of stewardship of these resources are essential to maintaining healthy and thriving populations of plants, animals, and people like us,” Heider said.