WIDE OPEN SPACE DOESN’T MEAN OPEN FOR BUSINESS. PARKS CLOSE DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CROWDS

Fresh air and exercise is good for the brain, body and the mind, but what happens when everybody decides to go outside at once?

Shortly after Governor Cuomo announced his executive order to put ‘New York on Pause’ requiring all non-essential workers to stay home and for everyone to maintain 6 feed of distance in public, many many people decided the best way to process this drastic change in our communal lives was to take a hike on the
Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County, NY.

Although the preserve is 8,000 acres of cliffs, forests, fields, ponds and streams, visitors were still filling up the parking lots and crowding the hiking trails and carriage roads. So, Elizabeth Long, director of conservation science at the Mohonk Preserve says unfortunately the crowds forced them to temporarily close the preserve. However, Long says there are still numerous ways to enjoy nature from home thanks to the power of the internet.

Aired on April 3, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> HI, I'M JENNA FLANAGAN OF 'METROFOCUS.'

FRESH AIR AND EXERCISE ARE KNOWN TO NOT ONLY BE GOOD FOR THE BODY, BUT ALSO FOR THE MIND AND THE BRAIN AS WELL.

SO IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT IN TIMES OF STRESS, PEOPLE WOULD SEEK OUT INVIGORATING OUTDOOR ACTIVITY.

FOLLOWING GOVERNOR CUOMO'S EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PUT NEW YORK ON PAUSE, REQUIRING ALL NONESSENTIAL WORKERS TO STAY HOME AND INDIVIDUALS TO MAINTAIN A SIX-FOOT DISTANCE, MANY, MANY PEOPLE HEADED UP TO THE HIKING TRAILS OF THE MOHONK PRESERVE IN NEW YORK.

UNFORTUNATELY IT WAS TOO MANY PEOPLE AND THE TRAILS WERE QUICKLY CLOSED.

SO SWJOINING US NOW TO HELP US UNDERSTAND WHY IT HAPPENED AND WHY CLOSING THE TRAILS DOES NOT HAVE TO MEAN BEING CLOSED TO NATURE IS ELIZABETH LONG, DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION SCIENCE AT THE MOHONK PRESERVE.

ELIZABETH, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

JUST, SORT OF TO HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ONLY SEEING THE CLOSING OF MOHONK, BUT OTHER PARKS AS WELL.

WHY IN SUCH -- YOU GUYS HAVE ACRES AND ACRES AND ACRES OF LAND.

WHY IN SUCH A WIDE OPEN SPACE WHERE THERE IS LOTS OF ROOM TO DISTANCE DO THE TRAILS HAVE TO BE CLOSED?

YEAH, IT WAS A REALLY DIFFICULT DECISION AND WE WANTED TO BE ABLE TO PROVIDE THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR FOLKS TO GET OUTSIDE AND GET OUT INTO NATURE AT SUCH A STRESSFUL TIME.

WE DID TRY TO STAY OPEN AND WHAT WE FOUND WAS THAT FOLKS WERE SO EAGER TO COME OUT AND REALLY, REALLY FEELING THE NEED TO GET OUT INTO NATURE, IT WAS MAKING THINGS JUST TOO CROWDED, NOT ONLY IN OUR PARKING LOTS, BUT ALSO ON THE TRAILS, THERE WAS A TREMENDOUS, TREMENDOUS INFLUX OF VISITORS ON TO THE TRAILS.

AND WE FOUND OUR STAFF COULDN'T MANAGE IT SAFELY.

WE DIDN'T FEEL LIKE WE COULD PROTECT OUR VISITOR, PROTECT OUR STAFF AND ALSO KEEP THE LAND SAFE.

THAT'S THE BIG PART OF IT IS MAKING SURE THAT THE LAND ISN'T GETTING LOVED TO DEATH.

OF COURSE, OF COURSE.

SO THEN WHEN -- UNFORTUNATELY THE DECISION WAS MADE, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

AGAIN, FOR PEOPLE WHO AT LEAST LIVE AROUND THE MOHONK PRESERVE, IT IS A PART OF LIFE IN THIS PARTICULAR PART OF THE HUDSON VALLEY AND ALSO TO TURN AWAY VISITORS WHO WERE REALLY JUST TRYING TO GET OUT OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN CRAMPED SPACES THEY WERE COMING FROM.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND FOR ME I ABSOLUTELY RELATE TO THAT.

I'M A ROCK CLIMBER, A RUNNER, CYCLIST.

I USE OUR TRAILS ALL THE TIME.

AND I FEEL FIRSTHAND HOW HARD THIS IS.

AND WE'RE MAKING A LOT OF SACRIFICES.

STAY AT HOME, SACRIFICES REQUIRING BIG ADJUSTMENTS FOR ALL OF US.

UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE SEEING THE SAME SORTS OF DECISIONS HAPPEN IN PLACES ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY.

WE'RE SEEING OTHER PARKS INCLUDING SOME OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS AND OTHER HEAVILY VISITED AREAS HAVING TO COME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION.

I SEE EVERY DAY NEW PLACES THAT HAVE JUST HAD TO MAKE THE SAME CLOSURE ADJUSTMENTS.

SO WE'RE HOPING THAT PEOPLE CAN STILL GET OUT INTO NATURE IN OTHER WAYS, JUST BE A LITTLE MORE CREATIVE, THE SAME WAY ALL OF US ARE MANAGING WITH THIS NEW CREATIVITY AND THESE NEW RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE.

WELL, SPEAKING OF BEING MORE CREATIVE AND USING SOME OF THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT WE HAVE, MOHONK IS STILL RUNNING A LOT OF YOUR PROGRAMS ARE ONLINE AND THAT THERE ARE WAYS FOR PEOPLE TO STILL ENGAGE WITH NATURE, BUT FROM, AGAIN, A SOCIALLY DISTANT PLACE AT HOME.

YES.

WE KNOW OUR FIRST PREFERENCE FOR SO MANY FOLKS IS TO GET OUTSIDE.

BUT WE'RE LUCKY WE HAVE OTHER TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE.

SO OUR EDUCATION STAFF HAS DONE A TREMENDOUS JOB OF PUTTING RESOURCES ONLINE, YOU CAN FIND THIS ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND WEBSITE, UNDER NATURE NUGGETS.

SO EVERY DAY THEY HAVE A NEW ACTIVITY THAT FAMILIES CAN DO, YOU CAN DO IT AT HOME.

SOMETIMES DON'T NEED TO GO OUTSIDE, YOU CAN LOOK OUT A WINDOW OR USE THINGS YOU GOT IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT.

AND OUR RESEARCH, MY TEAM OF CONCENTRATION SCIENCE FOLKS ARE STILL MANAGING TO GET OUT AND DO SOME OF OUR HIGH PRIORITY PROJECTS, WE HAVE REALLY LONG-TERM DATA PROJECTS, SOME OF WHICH GO BACK 125 YEARS THAT WE WANT TO TRY TO CONTINUE UNINTERRUPTED IF WE CAN.

BUT THERE IS A LOT OF WAYS THAT FOLKS CAN STILL ENGAGE WITH NATURE, THERE IS SOME GREAT WEB-BASED RESEARCH LIKE NATURALIST WHICH YOU CAN JUST LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW, TAKE A PHOTO OF SOMETHING YOU SEE IN NATURE, POST IT ON TO INATURALIST, GET HELP WITH V IDENTIFICATION OF THE SPECIES.

YOU CAN HELP OUR RESEARCH PROJECT, YOU CAN GO TO A SITE LIKE NOTES FROM NATURE AND TRANSCRIBE LABELS FROM MUSEUM SPECIMENS, WHICH IS A LOT OF FUN AND AN INTERESTING WAY TO VOLUNTEER JUST SITTING AT YOUR COMPUTER AT HOME.

I'M SPEAKING WITH ELIZABETH LONG, DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION SCIENCE AT THE MOHONK PRESERVE.

AND IN ADDITION TO WHAT YOU WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT IN TERMS OF IDENTIFYING DIFFERENT SPECIES AND PLANTS, SOMETHING ELSE I KNOW HAS BECOME A GREAT PASSION FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY PEOPLE IN NEW YORK CITY, IS BIRDING.

AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT CAN STILL BE ENGAGED WITH VIA SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

ABSOLUTELY.

THE BIRDING COMMUNITY WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TO REALLY EMBRACE THIS COMMUNITY SCIENCE INITIATIVE AND THERE IS A FANTASTIC PLATFORM CALLED EBIRD, OUT OF THE CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY.

THE IDEAL WAY TO PARTICIPATE IS TO HAVE AN EBIRD ACCOUNT, LOOK AT BIRDS AND POST ON THEIR WEBSITE.

YOU CAN ALSO EXPLORE THE DATA THERE ON THE EBIRD.

YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT THE DIFFERENT SPECIES THAT OTHER FOLKS ARE SEEING.

AND THEY HAVE ANOTHER REALLY FUN TOOL, FROM THE CORNELL LAB CALLED THE MIGRATION FORECAST.

SO YOU CAN GO TO THE CORNELL WEBSITE, AND YOU CAN FIND WHAT BIRD MIGRATION IS DOING IN YOUR AREA OR IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.

SO WHEN THE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT OR WHEN THE SEASON IS JUST RIGHT FOR THE BIRDS TO REALLY MOVE IN LARGE NUMBERS, IT CAN HELP YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT OR WHAT MIGHT BE SHOWING UP AT YOUR FEEDER OR IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD AT ANY GIVEN TIME.

IT IS A LOT OF FUN TO LOOK AT.

ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT TO ASK IS SOME -- SINCE THERE AREN'T REALLY PEOPLE WHO ARE VISITORS AT THE PRESERVE RIGHT NOW, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT DOES MAINTAINING THE TRAILS ENTAIL?

WHAT IS IT THAT THESE STAFF WOULD BE DOING NOW ABSENCE OF VISITORS TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYTHING REMAINS AS, YOU KNOW, HIGH STANDARD AS THE QUALITY THAT YOU GUYS EXPECT.

THAT IS A GREAT QUESTION AND I THINK SOMETIMES FOLKS DON'T UNDERSTAND ACTUALLY WHAT DOES GO ON BEHIND THE SCENES TO KEEP TRAILS SAFE AND KEEP THEM ACCESSIBLE FOR THE PUBLIC DURING IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

SO WE DO HAVE A SKELETON CREW OF FOLKS OUT OVER LAND WHO ARE DOING THINGS LIKE CLEARING CULVERTS.

WE HAVE SNOW MELTING OFF AND LOTS OF RAIN HAPPENING NOW.

WE CAN GET A LOT OF RUN JF ON T ON OUR TRAILS AND KEEPING THE CULVERTS CLEARED OUT HELPS KEEP THE ROADS IN BETTER SHAPE AND THE ROADS ACCESSIBLE WHEN WE ARE ABLE TO COME BACK OUT.

CLEARING TREES, WE HAVE WINDFALL, WE HAVE A LOT OF TREES THAT ARE SUCCUMBING TO INVASIVE PESTS LIKE ASH TREES ARE LOSING OUT TO THE EMERALD ASH BORER.

SO WE'RE SEEING A LOT OF FALL.

SO CLEARING THE TREES FROM THE TRAILS.

AND WE HAVE ROUTINE MAINTENANCE THAT WOULD HAPPEN REGARDLESS, LIKE MOWING OUR FIELDS, WHICH MAY NOT SOUND CRITICAL FOR VISITORS BUT IT IS CRITICAL FOR WILDLIFE, IT HELPS TO PROVIDE HABITAT FOR WILDLIFE, THESE ARE THINGS THAT HAVE TO GO ON ALL YEAR LONG.

WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE TO KEEP MAINTAINING AS BEST WE CAN.

WE HAVE CUT BACK TO JUST THE ESSENTIAL SKELETON CREW.

BUT WE ARE TRYING TO KEEP EVERYTHING GOING SMOOTHLY SO THAT WHEN WE ARE ABLE TO HAVE FOLKS COME BACK OUT, EVERYTHING WILL BE GREAT, NATURE WILL BE HEALTHY AND EVERYTHING WILL BE SAFE FOR FOLKS TO COME OUT AND ENJOY.

I'M SO GLAD YOU MENTIONED THE WILDLIFE PART OF THIS.

NOW HOPEFULLY THE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND THE CLOSING OF THE TRAILS WILL ONLY BE A TEMPORARY THING FOR US AND WE CAN GIVE BACK OUT INTO NATURE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

BUT I'M WONDERING IF THERE IS ALSO ANY PLANS TO BE TRACKING HOW THE WILE LIFE SORT OF RECLAIMS THE LAND SANS HUMAN INTERVENTION.

IT IS AN INTERESTING QUESTION AND IT IS REWARDING TO LOOK OUT THE WINDOW AND SEE NATURE GOING ON AS USUAL.

I STEPPED OUT INTO MY YARD YESTERDAY AND HEARD EASTERN SEA BEES THAT CAME IN FOR THEIR MIGR MIGRATION.

THE WORLD STILL GOES ON.

THE BIRDS DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA WE SEQUESTERED OURSELVES.

THERE ARE SPECIES THAT MAY BENEFIT FROM HAVING A REDUCED HUMAN PRESENCE AROUND.

ONE NOTABLE EXAMPLE IS PEREGRINE FALCONS WHICH NEST ON THE CLIFFS.

WE HAVE THREE DIFFERENT PAIRS AT THE PRESERVE.

AND NORMALLY WE HAVE TO BE REALLY PROACTIVE ABOUT TRYING TO MAKE SURE THE CLIMBING COMMUNITY AND THE NESTING PEREGRINES ARE NOT IN CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER.

BUT NOW THAT THERE IS NOT CLIMBING HAPPENING, THE BIRDS HAVE THE PLACE TO THEMSELVES AND IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE IF THAT HAS ANY INFLUENCE ON THEIR SUCCESS.

AND LIKEWISE THINGS LIKE MAI DP MIGRATING SALAMANDER OZ OR FROGS THAT COME OUT THIS TIME OF YEAR TO BREED ARE NOT HAVING TO CONTEND WITH AS MUCH TRAFFIC, NOT ONLY ON THE ROADS, BUT ALSO FOOT TRAFFIC OR PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY INTERESTED TO MAYBE A GET A LOOK AT THEM AND DON'T KNOW IT WOULD BE BETTER TO GIVE THEM A LITTLE BIT OF SPACE.

OF COURSE.

NOW, FOR, AGAIN, SO MANY PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY IN THE METROPOLITAN AREA, REALLY ARE PROBABLY GOING TO BE ITCHING TO GET BACK OUT INTO NATURE.

BUT AS WE SLOWLY BEGIN TO COME BACK OUT AGAIN, IS IT IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT IT IS NOT JUST US WHO WILL BE OUT IN THE EARLY MONTHS OF SPRING AND OF COURSE SUMMER AND THE HUDSON VALLEY WE DO HAVE AN ISSUE WITH TICKS.

AND, YEAH, NOT TO FORGET THE TICK SEASON IS STILL HAPPENING.

AND IS THAT SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE SHOULD ALSO KEEP IN MIND WHEN THEY EVENTUALLY DO GET TO GET BACK OUT INTO NATURE?

ALWAYS.

TICKS ARE ALWAYS ON THE FRONT OF OUR MINDS.

WE'RE ALREADY SEEING TICKS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

IT DOESN'T TAKE THAT MUCH HEAT TO GET THEM TO WAKE UP AND START BEING ACTIVE AGAIN.

SO OUR STAFF ARE ALREADY TAKING OUR TICK PRECAUTIONS AND CHECKING OURSELVES REGULARLY WHEN WE DO HAVE TO GET OUT ON THE LAND AND WE PERFORM OUR MAINTENANCE AND ROUTINE TASKS.

SO IT IS GOING TO BE REALLY HARD TO RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO JUST GO RUN AMOK, BUT I SUSPECT BY THE TIME FOLKS ARE READY TO GET BACK OUT ON THE LAND THERE WILL BE POISON IVY AT PLAY AND ALL THOSE THINGS ARE STILL THERE.

THEY HAVEN'T SLOWED DOWN AT ALL.

AND WE GOT TO STILL TAKE THE SAME PRECAUTIONS AS WE WOULD ANYWAY.

ALL RIGHT.

I'VE BEEN SPEAKING WITH ELIZABETH LONG, DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION SCIENCE AT THE MOHONK PRESERVE IN NEW YORK.

I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO JOIN ME, TO NOT ONLY EXPLAIN WHY CLOSING OUR BELOVED HIKING TRAILS WAS NECESSARY, BUT ALSO THAT THERE ARE OTHER OUTLETS FOR PEOPLE TO STILL ENJOY NATURE, EVEN IF YOU FEEL SO FAR REMOVED AWAY FROM IT RIGHT NOW.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I KNOW WE ALL LOOK FORWARD TO GETTING BACK OUTSIDE AND ENJOYING OUR NATURE, BUT I HOPE WE CAN DO WHAT WE CAN DO TO MAKE OURSELVES HAPPY INSIDE AS MUCH AS WE CAN.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME, ELIZABETH.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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