Summer is upon us and there are a few updates worth mentioning.
Yet Another Fire Department Save
Our volunteer Hastings Fire Department reacted quickly last Wednesday to put out a fire that broke out on a balcony of 58 Main (home to Columbus Nails) which quickly spread inside. They saved the building (and likely the adjacent Purple Crayon) by reacting quickly to the report and dousing the roaring flames inside and out before they spread.
The steps from the parking lot behind the laundromat ("Steinschneider") down to the Train Station were restored late June through the efforts of craftsmen at our own DPW. This walkway had become exceptionally beaten-up over the last couple of winters, and was overdue for a rehab. It is used by several hundred commuters and others every day.
Battle of Edgar’s Lane
With the recent July 4th weekend, we are reminded of the Village’s own role in the Revolutionary war: the Battle of Edgar's Lane on Sept. 30, 1778. The British were encamped in New York City, the central headquarters of British activity in the colonies during the war. Hastings, at the time, was a no-man’s land between British forces to the south and Washington’s forces to the north. Peter Post, a local patriot, owned a tavern in Hastings-on-Hudson with a mixed clientele of patriots and Loyalists. One evening in September, he overheard talk of a Hessian raiding party that would be coming through on a foraging mission. Peter informed the Continental Army and a plan was hatched to ambush the raiding Hessians. On September 30th, Post directed the expected marauding party of Hessians right into an
ambush: 80 Hessians walked into a waiting group of about 120 American dragoons hiding in the woods near Edgar's Lane. Twenty-three Hessians were killed as they fled down a ravine toward the Hudson. (The Hessians returned and beat Peter Post to near death, but he did survive and became a major landowner after the war.)
Deer Project Update
I’ve long promised a follow-up email to report on what we learned back in March during the first phase of the Deer Immunocontraception project. I’ve circled this for three months now, and no matter what I tried, it was just too long for general distribution. If you want to read the full report (less than six pages, and full of interesting tid-bits), please go here. This email only touches on the immediate next steps, which involves two efforts underway to gather the metrics
which will help us determine if the effort is successful. We have already rolled out one (the “Host a Hosta” study). Two more are being rolled out this summer. I describe them here because you may see them around and about you.
One of the biggest impacts of deer on our shared environment is the wholesale destruction of the understory in the Village parks. The parks used to have dense bramble and vegetation twenty years ago at ground level. A diversity of species lived in this understory, and the next generation of trees were nurtured there. The deer have chewed down anything native from six feet high (as far as they can reach) down - so it is possible to see most of the way through the woods. This is neither normal nor healthy for the woods - the next generation trees is consumed before they ever mature, and a whole ecology of species that existed in the understory are gone. If the deer population is lowered, we may see some of this vital portion of our shared environment bounce back. To track this, we are setting up a couple of exclosures
(fenced areas that keep deer out) where we will track the return of native species to see what would happen if the deer were reduced in number. We will also stake out several plots and count species there every year - and see if the numbers change over the course of the experiment.
This particular effort is being run by teacher Melissa Shandroff, who teaches the Advanced Placement Environmental Science class in the High School. She received a grant from the Hastings Education Foundation to establish an exclosure where native plants will be actively cultivated. We are working with Ms. Shandroff and her students to extend that study so that enclosures will specifically track how forest regrowth would happen, and how species regeneration (or not) is actually happening. We have managed to integrate this effort into a larger one being run by several organizations in the Hudson Valley and we will be using their sampling protocols. You may encounter these exclosures in Hillside Woods. Leave them be, please, and (please) watch your dogs around them.
This is a hugely exciting effort as we engage students in a scientifically valid and important region-wide effort that will tell us much about the current state of the forest as well as the success of the program. Since this study will run for five years, scores of students will have the opportunity to participate in honest-to-god real research, a splendid example of what is called "citizen science".
We need to know how many deer there are to know whether we have cut their numbers down. We believe there are 120-140 deer in town. In the end, the best statistically valid way to count deer is to photograph them in their abundant numbers and then, through statistical methods, analyze the photos taken and come up with a total. The way this is done is to deploy what are called "camera traps" which are specially-designed cameras that are heat-sensitive and automatically triggered when a warm body passes within ten yards of their lens. These cameras are strapped to trees for a month and photograph every single creature that passes before them. The photos are then downloaded and analyzed.
Around fifteen cameras are going to be deployed in a grid around town (largely in park areas, but also on some private property where we get permission) sometime in August. A graduate student, Chris Johnson of Pace, will then use well-established protocols to determine to within 5% how many deer reside here. He will be overseen by Mark Weckel, who is an expert on this topic and has run camera traps in a number of projects. We will need to do this every year for the duration of the project, and this will provide us with the most important benchmark of all: have we managed to cut the number of deer down over a five year term. (Photos of anything other than deer are discarded, FYI...)
The work downtown replacing the century-old gas mains will wind up this month. The bridge restoration is on schedule and less disruptive than feared. Our new local restaurants the Mill and St. George's both enjoyed kudos via reader-selected votes in Westchester Magazine. Our downtown vendors especially appreciate your business in the slow months of summer - if there's a gift to buy or event to celebrate, keep them in mind. Enjoy the outdoors and all the best these summer days have to offer.