Teatown Lake Reservation

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Teatown Lake Reservation
Formation June 20, 1969 (1969-06-20)
Headquarters 1600 Spring Valley Road, Ossining, NY
190 acres (77 ha), now 834 acres (338 ha)
Membership New York–New Jersey Trail Conference, Land Trust Alliance, Federated Conservationists of Westchester County, Association of Nature Center Administrators, and Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities
Website www.teatown.org

Teatown Lake Reservation is a nonprofit nature preserve and environmental education center in Westchester County, New York, in the United States. The reservation includes an 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) nature preserve and education center located in the Westchester towns of Yorktown, Cortlandt, and New Castle. About 25,000 people come each year to hike the preserve's 15 miles (24 km) of trails, attend an education program, visit the Nature Center, or tour "Wildflower Island". Teatown's educators offer adult, family and children's programs to 20,000 participants annually, including nearly 6,000 schoolchildren and 700 summer camp students.

Known by locals simply as "Teatown", the organization works to conserve biodiversity, teach ecology and promote nature-friendly living. Located in the heart of the Lower Hudson Valley's Hudson Highlands bioregion, Teatown Lake Reservation's mission is to conserve open space, educate citizens about the environment, and involve the public in order to sustain the diversity of wildlife, plants and habitats for future generations.

Annual festivals[edit]

Teatown conducts two annual celebrations that are open to the public: the Hudson River EagleFest and the Plant Sale. The EagleFest takes place in February each year, when winter conditions make eagles easier to spot as they search for prey on the Hudson River. The EagleFest offers visitors live raptor demonstrations in tents at Westchester County's Croton Point Park. Short bus tours from Croton Point that take visitors to local eagle spotting sights up and down the lower Hudson Valley require reservations. Guides with scopes are located at the bus stops along the tour as well as at the Croton Point. About 2,500 visitors took part in EagleFest 2008, and about 4,000 visitors took part in 2009. Several dozen non-profit organizations, governmental agencies and municipalities participate. Other nearby nature and culture centers, such as the Beczak Environmental Education Center, Croton Point Nature Center, Van Cortlandt Manor, and Constitution Marsh Audubon Center hold concurrent eagle-themed programs during the EagleFest week. Before and during the event, 5,000 free eagle spotting maps are distributed.

The annual Nature Friendly Plant Sale celebrates the Cliffdale Farm legacy of Teatown and is a well-known source for local hardy and diverse garden plants. The plant sale takes place each spring.

Conservation outreach[edit]

Teatown is rapidly developing a reputation as the foremost environmental organization in the Hudson Hills and Highlands, providing conservation leadership to this bioregion, which encompasses most of Westchester and Putnam counties, and parts of Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties. Teatown takes an active role in state, county and community efforts to protect open space and natural areas.

Through sponsorship of the Hudson Hills and Highlands Environmental Leaders Learning Alliance (ELLA), Teatown provides assistance to civic leaders in crafting practical solutions to environmental issues and helps land owners and residents become more "nature friendly between the parks." ELLA's mission is to bring together town-appointed members of environmental commissions from across New York's Hudson Hills and Highlands to strengthen environmental protection at a regional level, through environmental training, sharing lessons learned, and fostering collaboration. Launched in 2008 under a multiyear grant from New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, the Alliance has good representation from the several dozen towns and villages whose conservation advisory council members are the principal beneficiaries. At each ELLA workshop, citizens who serve on their town's or village's environmental review committees receive training and insight into specific local challenges such groups face each month. For example, ELLA workshop topics have included background of locally invasive species, and detecting and protecting vernal pools. ELLA members have access to a resource library.

In 2008, Teatown and the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference established a partnership on a new effort to provide assistance to local trail programs in Putnam and Westchester counties. Launched in July 2008, the "Hudson Hills and Highlands Community Trail Program" is one part of the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference's larger effort to expand its reach east of the Hudson River from New York City to Columbia County. For nearly 100 years, New York–New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers have helped public agencies provide safe and responsible access to open space from New York City west to the Delaware Water Gap and north to the Catskills.

Environmental education[edit]

An important part of Teatown's mission is to teach ecology and encourage responsible interaction with nature. About 25,000 people come each year to attend an education program, visit the Nature Center, hike its trails, or tour Wildflower Island, a 2-acre (8,100 m2) island sanctuary located within Teatown Lake that is home to over 230 native and endangered species of wildflowers.

Teatown's educators offer a variety of environmental education programs, including weekend family and adults only programs, multi-week children’s series, school programs, school vacation camps, a summer camp, and special programs for Scouts and others organizations.

Over 10,000 participants annually attend one or more such educational programs, including nearly 6,000 school children and 700 summer campers. Annually, over 15,000 hikers traverse Teatown's 15 miles (24 km) of trails that span abundant fields, mixed forests, lakes, streams, swamps and farm land. Teatown volunteers also participate in the "Great Backyard Bird Count" sponsored by the Audubon Society each winter.

Teatown's Nature Center is a source of wildlife knowledge and home to a variety of amphibians, birds of prey, mammals and reptiles. The Nature Center also houses a store with books and small gifts. The Center often hosts gallery shows of art by area painters and photographers related to environmental themes.

Land stewardship[edit]

Teatown Lake Reservation serves as an 834-acre (3.38 km2) oasis for many of the plants and animals that inhabit the Hudson Hills and Highlands. Teatown recently expanded its Environmental Stewardship Program to manage the flora and fauna living in the preserve for the benefit of nature conservation and regional ecological health. What began as a gift of 190 acres (0.77 km2) in 1963 has quadrupled in size, including many different habitats, from aquatic and wetland locations to upland woods and meadows.

The foundation of Teatown's Stewardship Program is built on science and environmental management. Staff, collaborating scientists, students, and volunteers work together to document, monitor, and study the reservation's habitats, plants, and animals and to assess their ecological health and conservation status.

Based on these data, Teatown staff are developing new management activities to better protect the ecological communities and enhance Teatown's contribution to local nature conservation. Long-term ecological monitoring using scientific methodologies will track the impact of the conservation efforts and allow for on-going adjustments and improvements. Scientists call this environmental stewardship process adaptive management.

Strengthening nature-friendly living through improved stewardship of private lands will be a key to ensuring regional sustainability. Hence, Teatown hopes to develop models that other land holders in the four counties of Hudson Hills and Highlands may learn from and follow.

Science in a living laboratory[edit]

The Stewardship Program requires Teatown to conduct its own scientific studies of the reservation's habitats, plants, and animals. Teatown's Stewardship Program depends on the work of many scientists for its general understanding of the physical world (e.g. geologists and hydrologists) and the biological world (e.g. biologists and ecologists). This program is an example of the interdisciplinary work of modern conservation ecology.

In recent years, sprawling development, climate change, invasive species, and other environmental threats in Westchester County and the Hudson Hills and Highlands region call for more proactive land management practices. These efforts include setting management priorities and deciding on specific responses to environmental challenges. Teatown's science-based conservation efforts involve staff as well as students, collaborating scientists, partnering organizations, and volunteers.

One current scientific focus of Teatown's Stewardship Program is to document, assess, and begin formal monitoring of the reservation's biodiversity and natural resources. The monitoring portion of these studies will be on-going, so that population trends of flora and fauna can be detected over time. For example, the Stewardship Program team will be focusing its long-term monitoring efforts on habitats and organisms shown to be particularly sensitive to environmental change. These include the lakes, vernal pools and fens, lakeside dragonflies and damselflies, forest-interior birds, stream salamanders, turtles, and rare wildflowers.

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Coordinates: 41°12′43″N 73°49′59″W / 41.212°N 73.833°W / 41.212; -73.833