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Winter Dec 2012 - Feb 2013

by Taro Ietaka I recently learned a new word while reading Orion magazine kipuka. It is Hawaiian and refers to areas surrounded by lava flows but which remain full of vegetation and wildlife. The term has been used to mean island of life. Cranberry Lake is part of a kipuka, along with the land around the White Plains and Kensico Reservoirs, that is surrounded by human development. White Plains, a city of 57,000 that is only four miles from the Preserve, is very different from a volcano, but its parking lots, highways, buildings and lawns are only slightly better than flowing lava from the point of view of much of our wildlife. You Are in an Incredibly Important Place is what visitors to the Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge read on a big sign above our map display. There are so many reasons for why this is true the Preserve can be important for a childs enjoyment of the Cascade, an adults getaway place from the stress of everyday life, or a beautiful setting to have a family picnic - but perhaps the most important is the Preserves role as a home for wildlife. After all, there are other places people can go to enjoy themselves and relax, but there is no place in New York outside of Long Island that is home to a modest little plant called Twisted Screwstem. There is no other place in Westchester that I know of that is home to a little lichen called Gnomes Fingers. Fish are safe from hook and bait in Cranberry Lake, flowers are protected from picking. This past summer we had a bobcat spend several months within the preserve. It was seen by a patrolling police officer, several hikers, and even a summer camp group. River otter, mink, fox and coyote can also be seen in the park occasionally. Barred owls, screech owls, pileated woodpeckers, belted kingfishers, hooded mergansers, great blue herons, green herons, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, coopers hawks, and over 90 other species of birds have been recorded at Cranberry Lake. To me, these animals represent hope that maybe we havent messed things up too badly yet. Or if we have destroyed their homes in more remote areas, then I am happy to know that Cranberry Lake and the surrounding watershed land are a place they can come to weather the storm and hope for better times. One of the important roles a kipuka serves is as a repository for wildlife from which it can repopulate surrounding areas. If conditions turn favorable in the surrounding neighborhoods, Cranberry Lake could act as the launching point for mushrooms, salamanders, woodpeckers, and locally rare creatures to re-colonize the

In this issue:
Kipuka 1 The Curators Journal 2 The Kensico Ax 3 How to Light a Fire 5 Preserve News 7 Cranberry Creative Corner 8

Cranberry Maze 9 Calendar of Events 10 The Mushroom Museum 12

(Continued on page 6) CRANBERRY L AKE PRESERVE Westchester County Parks Dept. 1609 Old Orchard Street, West Harrison, NY 10604 (914) 428-1005

The Curators Journal

You Are in a Very Special Place
You Are in a Very Special Place is what visitors to the Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge read above our map display. It has been my job for the last five years to explain to visitors why that is the case. A place doesnt have to be special to someone because of the wildlife or habitats. A family that visits the park regularly has a rock where they stop and rest to enjoy the view. Theyve named that particular rock after their family. What a great way to get connected to a place! Feeling a sense of ownership or stewardship makes a place special, so I invite all visitors to come and adopt their own rock. Or for those who prefer trees, I hope to have a Stewards of Cranberry Lake fundraiser where families can make a donation to receive a tree sapling that they can plant in a storm-damaged area of the park. Hopefully theyd come back to water their tree during droughts or to take shade under some sunny day in the future. It is also memories of a place that can make it subjectively special. In my own case, I was in middle school and came to fish Cranberry Lake along with a couple of friends (this is completely forbidden now and, in retrospect, it was back in the 80s too). We had an inflatable raft which we quickly carried away from the parking lot after we were dropped off by my friends parent. We didnt catch any fish, and after about 30 minutes we noticed our boat sitting lower in the water. We had a leak which we remedied by alternating turns fishing and using our foot pump to re-inflate the raft as we paddled back to shore. I think of that at times as I walk the Blue Trail. Hopefully, everyone that visits will take away their own adventures and memories of the Preserve hopefully theyll be smarter about creating those memories than I was.

Welcome to the first edition of the Stewards of Cranberry Lake Preserve Newsletter!
I hope you enjoy our first newsletter. Please consider contributing to future issues. Send articles, artwork or photos to Please include the author/artists name and write Stewards Newsletter in the subject line. You can also mail or drop off your submissions at Cranberry Lake Preserve, 1609 Old Orchard Street, West Harrison, NY 10604

~Taro Ietaka


The Kensico Ax
by Zaac Chaves On October 23rd in Valhalla, NY, at least one citizen anxiously called the police to report a man with a weapon. After the municipal police sergeant failed to locate the danger, the immediate search was called off and surrounding departments were notified to keep a look out. Shortly thereafter I was crossing over the Kensico Dam on foot as part of my daily protest of the personal car. Wearing my usual Westchester County Parks shirt and khaki pants, I had been walking this stretch of my ninety-minute commute to Cranberry Lake Preserve. Suddenly I heard the crunching of pebbles from behind and glanced back to find a large vehicle marked DEP Police with the door opening. In a few minutes the sergeant returned to his vehicle, and I admired the gorgeous fall foliage over the reservoir as the scene gradually crowded with more sergeants and other officers representing the Mount Pleasant police, the North Castle police, the Westchester County police, and the New York State police. I would also soon have the opportunity to meet my supervisor from Westchester County Parks for the first time. But at this moment the sergeant simply asked me to place the ax on the ledge, which I did neatly, steel clinking against the cold granite. In some strange way, this commotion had less to do with the ax that I carried to work than with exposure. The Mount Pleasant Police sergeant reassured me that I could carry an ax to work. The problem was that a citizen had perceived this ax as a weapon. What I could have done differently, he suggested, was to keep the ax's head concealed within my bag. This ax would likely not have been reported if only the ax's handle extended out the top of my backpack. However, when submerged in my bag I would lose control over the direction of the ax blade. A rustling ax head could rip a hole through my bag and fall somewhere accidentally. In another scenario, the ax could be removed from my bag which would be difficult for me to prevent when behind my back and out of reach. My experience as a park employee suggests that the safest way to carry an ax is at the side, just below the blade, with the cutting edge facing away from my body as I had been doing. By adhering to professional and safe standards it is truly surprising that

someone found my commute threatening. Earlier that day while carrying this ax, I traveled through the towns of Ridgefield, Katonah, and Chappaqua. I sat among many commuters on one bus and on two separate trains. I even passed a political candidate who approached and asked for my vote. Indeed, according to the Mount Pleasant Police sergeant he had only been alerted to my presence as late as downtown Valhalla. I overheard the DEP Police sergeant more specifically mention a call concerning an "ax murderer." My purpose here is not to deny the fact that an ax can be used to inflict harm on others. People have been intentionally and tragically killed by men wielding axes. Indeed, an ax murder did once occur near where I had been stopped, at a submerged site where a stolen ax was used to murder a Kensico store owner in 1882. Also within the choppy gray waters of the reservoir, deep beneath the reflection of autumn leaves, lies a favored headquarters of George Washington. There is an American paradox regarding George Washington's ax. Since in Washington's possession, his ax is said to have had the handle replaced three times and the head replaced twice. In other words, this ax is still considered an original artifact even though it no longer consists of any original parts. The ax, the story goes, is shown to an intrigued audience who are quickly disenchanted upon learning that Washington never actually held the handle nor swung the head. On Halloween night of 1776, Washington withdrew his troops to the hills on the northeast side of what is now the Kensico reservoir. Washington was on the verge of directing one of his most impressive feats involving the stealthy movement of troops and supplies over the East River. Amid a climate of urgent messenger alerts, ever-lurking British spies, and little sleep, acting based on fear would have compromised the safety of the troops and the longevity of the nascent United States. However, as with any emotion, Washington understood that fear alone would be a tragically unsafe way of assuring that safety. Is it not somewhat impertinent, if not unpatriotic, for a citizen living over the footprints of his or her forefathers to sound an alarm at the sight of a uniformed county employee carrying an ax? As colonial farms are further subdivided, paving the way for our modern livelihoods, the ax stands as a timeless icon indebted towards this nation's heritage. (Continued on page 4)


The Kensico Axe (continued from page 3)

The uniquely robust design of the colonial ax can be traced to aboriginal origin based on the regional stone ax, as well as to the displacement of those aboriginal people. Deforestation was one of the most sweeping transformations wrought by European settlement, the American environmental historian William Cronon writes, reducing the forest was an essential first step toward reproducing that Old World mosaic in an American environment. While expressing my sympathies to those who may have been frightened by this ax, it is with only my kindest intentions that I suggest that these fears only estrange the community. The suburban and Halloween-marketed attraction to the label of "ax murderer" offers an all-too-easy detachment from the perceived lower culture of rural Americans. All material wealth, including our nourishment, derives ultimately from a rural Earth. Moreover, this land remains intrinsically embedded within a regional history whether we choose to start with Washington or perhaps the Siwanoy Indian chief, Cokenseco, from whom Kensico derives its name. What we know about our regional history remains an inseparable part of our cultural heritage, and by extension, a necessary and accessible part of understanding who we are today. Like George Washington's Ax, if a society is built using an ax, then, somehow, that society's heritage will always be encapsulated within that tool. By making the choice to prioritize our iconic heirlooms we can connect our modern lives with a more enduring vision. Downtown Valhalla comes directly from the displacement of Kensico, from turn-of-the-century technological manipulation of the geological landscape, and bequeaths an appreciation of a unique place on Earth. At 1 pm on Saturday, December 15th I led a program at Cranberry Lake Preserve which was timely submitted before this police commotion. At the program, I discussed the role of the broad ax leading up to what is today recognized as the Kensico Dam. This regional environmental history program included a live hewing demonstration. The recent debacle has demonstrated the need for such an educational program.

Photo by B. Gliwa

How to Light a Fire

by Cristina Ramos-Payne

My children attend homeschooling nature classes at Cranberry Lake Preserve. They had several classes on survival skills, and one in particular about building a campfire. But it wasnt just about making fire. First we discussed safety and how to contain a campfire, then we cleared our area of debris and a bucket was filled with water in case of emergency. Fire safety: Check. Then Taro began to tell the children about how local Native Americans taught their own children how to build a fire. They learned how the fire was looked upon as a guest, and this guest would need a comfortable bedkindlingand a housesticks with enough ventilation so that the fire can breathe. Local History, Native American lore: Check. Then Taro demonstrated different fire starting techniques. He showed how some methods spark, like flint and steel or 9 volt batteries and steel wool, while other methods use friction, like the bow string. Science: Check. The children set to work, squatting in front of their little stick houses, trying to catch a spark in their kindling beds. As each little campfire lit, so did the faces of the children. It is something they will never forget learning, proving that education is not simply the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.

Photos by C. Ramos-Payne



(Continued from page 1)

area. At first it may seem ridiculous to think that Westchester, especially near White Plains, could ever revert back to conditions suitable for more wildlife. But thats not true. If golf courses are converted from monocultures of grass suitable only for Canada Geese into wooded or meadow habitats, as may happen at the old Ridgeway golf course, it may be the offspring of plants at the Cranberry Lake kipuka that are dispersed there and act as pioneers for a re-greening movement. Or, if phragmites, the tall reed that dominates the wetland between the Stop & Shop on North Broadway and George Washington Elementary School, ever releases its stranglehold then it would be possible for the pogonia orchids, chokeberries, and buttonbush at Cranberry to land seed there with the aid of wind and bird dispersers. It can happen as long as we humans are vigilant in protecting Cranberry Lake and other kipukas as islands of life, safe from our flowing asphalt, bulldozers, and lawnmowers.


Passing of Ken Soltesz We were very sad to hear of the death of Ken Soltesz, Curator of Cranberry Lake until 2002. Ken was an amazing naturalist and educator who was legendary for his knowledge of dragonflies. Visitors to Cranberry Lake who have never met Ken may still recognize him from the Cranberry Lake Maze upon successfully navigating the maze from the Quarry to the Nature Center, one is welcomed by a self-portrait of Ken, bearded and waving. It is how I like to remember him. In thanks for Kens contributions to the Preserve, Eagle Scout Jonathan Smith will be creating the Ken Soltesz Memorial Trail to one of the parks most scenic overlooks of the lake and will be building a bench for visitors to enjoy.

in inhospitable places such as in the cracks of rocks. I hadnt realized that Red Oak acorns were similarly indiscriminate about growing in shallow soil over rock, as evidenced by looking at the blown over rootstocks. The other interesting thing was the direction that trees fell either to the southwest or northwest. Noreasters are pretty common in our area, so only a few trees came down while Sandy was blowing from that direction. Sandy then shifted with winds coming from the southeast a much more infrequent occurrence, with correspondingly many more trees toppling to the northwest.

Superstorm Sandy Monday, October 29 was a black day for the trees at Cranberry Lake Preserve. Dozens of hundred-year old Red Oak trees were blown over the road and trails. For the next couple of weeks, Preserve staff with dozens of scouts and volunteers helped to re-open blocked paths. The storm was interesting for a number of reasons. Of the scores of trees that came down, the overwhelming number were either Black Birch or Red Oak. Black Birch is known for its small seeds that will sprout

South Pond Boardwalk Update Regrettably, we still recommend visitors avoid using South Pond Boardwalk it is still unstable and missing boards. Earlier this year we sourced cut locust tree logs to use as the footings for a rebuilt boardwalk. However, we are still awaiting delivery.


Cranberry Creative Corner

The Three Beetles
Once upon a time there were three beetles. One blue, one green and one red. They ate the native plants in their area. They werent afraid of anything; no birds, or big bugs, or plant either. So when word came to them that there was a new plant in town that was very big and had leaves and stems that could slice you, the beetles just laughed and said, Whos afraid of the big bad weed? and went on with their day. But one fateful day they saw the plant growing in the swamp. So they moved away. The next day, they saw more growing in the field. The following day, the field was completely covered! An invasive species! marveled Blue Beetle. Maybe another yummy plant we can get rid of! said the hungry Green Beetle. Youre right! We could eat it away till there is no more! said Red Beetle. So they tried it. Its tough to bite! sputtered Blue. It tastes awful! spat Green. It cut my tongue! wailed Red. So they flew away before another bite. Meanwhile, the triumphant Fragmities kept on growing. The End
Photo by C. Ramos-Payne

On Spotting Wild Turkeys

The turkeys! The turkeys! The WILD turkeys! They ran across the path; They went to the cascade and then They ran into the grass. We looked into the grass for them We followed them into suck mud; They ran into the bush and then We slipped and we went thud! ~August Geary, Age 6
Authors note: suck mud is the thick, gooey mud that clings so hard it feels like its going to suck your shoes right down into the ground.

~Phoebe Streeter, age 10



Cranberry Lake Preserve Calendar of Events January - February

Sunday 13th, 1:00 PM NATURALISTS CHOICE HIKE Our destination will be determined what nature gives us. Saturday 19th, 1:00 PM STRAIGHT VEGETABLE OIL AS DIESEL FUEL Discussion and demonstration of a vehicle converted to run off vegetable oil. . Saturday 26th, 1:00 PM WINTER COLOR SCAVENGER HUNT Youll be surprised at how many colors are out there even in the middle of winter: red berries, green mosses, bluish lichens and more. If you can find the colors on our list you can even win a prize.

Saturday 2nd, 1:00 PM BICYCLE REPAIR 101 Cycling is a great way to reduce consumption and stay fit. Come learn how to do a basic tune up on your bicycle: tires, adjustments, cables, and safety. Saturday 9th, 1:00 PM NATURE STORY TIME Weve got a library of great story books in the nature lodge that wed love to share with you and your children. Staff choices may include The Lorax, The Salamander Room, Bufo: the Story of a Toad, and more. Sunday 17th, 1:00 PM GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER AND CONSERVATION A hike focused on recognizing some of the practical ecological advice offered by Carver.

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Cranberry Staff
Curator Taro Ietaka Naturalist Zaac Chaves Conservation Division of the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation

Newsletter Staff
Managing Editor: Cristina Ramos-Payne

The Stewards of Cranberry Lake Preserve is dedicated to promoting a better appreciation and understanding of the natural world and the value of Cranberry Lake Preserve. The Stewards provide financial and volunteer aid for exhibits, educational programs, and science equipment. The Stewards also encourage citizen participation in local and state government actions related to the future of the Preserve and nature center.

Become a Member Today!

2012 Stewards Board Members

President Mindy Swope Quintero Vice-President C. Ramos-Payne Treasurer Catherine McGibney

cut along dotted line and return with payment

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The Mushroom Museum

This temporary exhibit was set up at the end of a mushroom identification program led by Zaac Chaves.

Stewards of Cranberry Lake Preserve

Cranberry Lake Preserve 1609 Old Orchard Street West Harrison, NY 10604 USA ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED

Printed on Recycled Paper

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