Advocacy Alert: Support Westchester’s Nature Centers
Tell your Westchester County Legislators to Support County Parks & Nature Centers
Bedford Audubon is joining with Bronx River Sound Shore Audubon, Central Westchester Audubon, Hudson River Audubon, Saw Mill River Audubon, and Audubon New York to support Westchester County’s Parks and Nature Centers.
Please call your County Legislator and tell them to reinstate the positions of all eight County Nature Center Curators! Not sure who your County Legislator is? Follow this link, and enter your home address in the form on the right.
Need some talking points? Read on for all the great reasons we should support Westchester County Parks and Nature Centers.
Westchester County’s Parks and Nature Centers are treasures. Curators conduct a significant amount of conservation and habitat management that is critical in protecting the whole of Westchester County’s open space for bird and wildlife, including state-designated Important Bird Areas, like Croton Point Park, Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshlands Conservancy, and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. These sites support at-risk species such as the Bald Eagle, Eastern Meadowlark, Seaside Sparrow, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. Additionally, the Marshlands Conservancy is the largest salt marsh in Westchester County and has the largest maintained meadow in lower Westchester. Together with Edith Read, the area is a significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat.
More than 3,000,000 visit to the County’s Parks each year, and 70 percent of County residents use the County Parks and Nature Centers. The Parks and Nature Centers also draw hikers and wildlife enthusiasts from all over the region, generating revenue for local communities through lodging and camping, food, and gas. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 3.8 million people in New York State alone watch birds and other wildlife, and generate approximately $1.6 billion in ecotourism revenue annually.
A Nature Center without a Curator is just a building. The Curators interact with and provide environmental education to the County’s residents and school children. They serve as the first point of introduction to the County’s vast natural resources, and inspire a conservation ethic to protect County property.
There’s also a growing body of scientific evidence that exposure to nature promotes both physical and mental health, and improves productivity at work. Children in particular seem to benefit from nature and environmental education in a number of ways—from reducing the effects of ADHD, improving cognitive function, and increasing test scores. The County’s Nature Centers in more urbanized areas, such as Lenoir Nature Preserve and Croton Point Park, are especially critical in providing nature experience to children that may not have regular and frequent safe access to natural areas in their neighborhoods.
Curators also initiate or assist in conservation research projects conducted by prominent local universities and scientific organizations. Most of these projects are funded by external sources, costing the County nothing but added prestige and important conservation data to better manage our natural resources.
Without Curators, the County will have a difficult time implementing existing grants and seeking new sources of funding to enhance the County’s properties. Curators often work closely with volunteers; reducing the Curator workforce will likely result in a reduced volunteer core for County services as well.
The County may also see an increase in vandalism to buildings, property, and wildlife. Without Curators at each Nature Center, the County will also likely see an increase in drug use, underage drinking, and illegal hunting that will compromise visitor safety, put the County at increased liability and risk for lawsuits, and stretch already limited County Police resources.
To diminish Nature Centers and Parks by eliminating essential Curator Staff is ecologically short-sighted, but also financially short-sighted.
Photo Credit: Milkweed at Bylane Farm, by Robert Rohr, 2017.