Our city’s drinking water reservoirs are located in regions chockablock with outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, fishing, biking, and of course paddling. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection, steward of this resource, organized called The Watershed Experience on Saturday in Brooklyn Bridge Park to promote tourism to these attraction just two hours north of NYC. HarborLAB was invited to share the good word about our coming Watershed Wonder Tours.
HarborLAB volunteers Manny Steier and Erik Baard had a great time meeting representatives from the Ashokan Center, DEP natural resources, Frost Valley YMCA, and other potential partners. Getting there and back was half the fun — Manny biked from central Queens and Erik paddled from LIC. On the way down, Erik skirted the margins of the Liberty Challenge race as outriggers rounded a buoy by the Brooklyn Bridge — underestimating the current they were bucking, one crew rubbed shoulders with the buoy!
Wes Miller, Pat Erickson, and Dorothy Morehead were critical in getting the show on the road. One terrific bonus for Manny and Erik was meeting the friendly and capable Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse crew, especially Darren (who came to the rescue with sunblock) and Charlie.
A second treat, for Erik was feasting on Amelanchier growing in the park! (Manny doesn’t eat food he’s not authoritatively identified.) Amelanchier look like blueberries but are more closely related to cherries and peaches. The fruit is variable across the species, but the ones in Brooklyn Bridge Park (on the north side of the kayaking embayment, at the entrance to the path leading up stairs) were as sweet as fruit punch. All varieties have small seeds at the center that taste like almonds. In our region — especially the Hudson Valley — the most famous variety is known as shadbush (Amelanchier arborea), because the flowers bloom as shad (a migratory fish that’s an historically important food and still a delicacy) swim back into the estuary on their way to northern spawning grounds. The large bush is also more morbidly known in New England as serviceberry, because its bloom occurs when the ground is thawed enough for burial of the winter’s dead. If you’re from outside of the East Coast, you may have heard of their close cousins, known as Juneberry or Saskatoon on the prairies. Erik plants these small trees through his Gotham Orchards project, and they grow in many soils. Some argue that they are great for waterfronts because of their salt tolerances, but report that they aren’t particularly salt tolerant. We’ll follow the confidence of NYRP that the species is able to survive occasional saline flooding.