Saturday, July 08, 2006

Jamaica Bay Early Full Moon Paddle

Way, way, WAY out in Brooklyn, on the Paerdegat Basin, you'll find the Sebago Canoe Club.

With the weather forecast for Friday looking actually non-cataclysmic for a change, I'd been thinking about paddling after work on Friday anyways, so when an invitation from my friend I. to go for an "Early Full Moon Paddle" at Sebago, where she's a member, turned up in my inbox, I jumped at it - and so somewhere around 7:30, she and I and a couple other members were ready to launch.

The great thing about paddling out of Sebago is that the Paerdegat Basin lets out into Jamaica Bay. Jamaica Bay is part of the Gateway Recreation Area, a 26,000 acre national park that includes areas in 3 New York City boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island) and northern New Jersey. The bay itself is a wildlife refuge, and quite an amazing one too, seeing as it's located in such a thoroughly urban area. You don't forget where you are when you're paddling out there - for starters, the planes rumbling overhead on their way into & out of Kennedy International Airport keep you from imagining entirely that you've been picked up & magically transferred to the Outer Banks of North Carolina - but at the same time, you can still just be transfixed with amazement as you paddle around the marshy islands of the bay with seabirds sweeping past (seagulls, terns and skimmers - I loved it when a skimmer flew past us then circled back & skimmed right past us with his lower beak cutting through the water) and fish scattering as you approach and horseshoe crabs doing their horseshoe-crabs-at-full-moon thing.

It's a beautiful place, but ailing. Over time, the islands and marshes of the bay have been shrinking. Our course around Ruffle Bar (one of the islands) took us past this odd-looking barge. This turned out to be a relay station for the marsh reclamation station that's now underway - they are pumping sand to replace some of what's been lost. The New York Times just happened to have a great article by Nicholas Confessore about the project yesterday, perfect timing to make me really enjoy seeing this!.

For those who might not be registered, or read this after the article has gone into the archives, here's a quote and some statistics from the article:

The project had to overcome some significant early resistance. During the 1990's, residents of Broad Channel, the island neighborhood that sits in Jamaica Bay between Howard Beach and the Rockaways, began noticing that the marshes they considered their backyard were shrinking. State environmental officials, however, were initially slow to agree.

"It took an enormous amount of arguing with the powers that be to convince those of us in government that there was a problem," Mr. Weiner said.

Satellite photography in the late 1990's showed conclusively that the marsh islands — there are 16 left in Jamaica Bay — were ebbing away, and that Elders Point would most likely go next. (Elders Point, once a single island of 132 acres, is now two islands totaling about 21 acres.)...

The restoration plan is financed by the Corps of Engineers, in connection with a $1.6 billion project to deepen New York Harbor, and by the Port Authority.

Yearly marsh loss: 50 acres
Time until marshes are gone, at that rate, with no action: 15 years
Cubic yards of sand (if I'm getting this right, the sand is coming from the harbor deepening project) added to Elders Point since start of project: 120,000
Number of acres of marsh to be added over next 2 years: 70 (ok & this is where my inner number cruncher is going "that's still a net LOSS of 15 acres a year" & feeling like it's better, but still...)
Length of sand-pumping pipeline from Floyd Bennett Field (where the sand is stored until mixed with water & pumped) to reclamation site: 3 miles
Number of marsh plants to be planted by hand over next 2 years: 900,000 (WOW).
Cost of project: $13 million.

I hope it works - Jamaica Bay is a wonderful place to have & it would be a tragedy if someday those islands, which provide a safe home for so many animals here where there are so many people, were gone.

As far as last night - we paddled around Ruffle Bar; the moon was rising as we headed out, not quite full but bright enough to sparkle on the water very beautifully as darkness fell. As we headed back, we could see the lights of Manhattan off in the distance - we landed close to 11 after a long rest to watch the Coney Island Friday night fireworks. Couldn't have been much nicer.

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