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News from MRG

Winter Trail Rest Dec. 1 to Apr. 1

WinterTrails are Closed for their Winter Rest December 1 to April 1

Ever since 1986 the preserve has been closed to hikers for its winter trail rest to prevent the Gorge from being loved to death. We all know the damage caused by uncontrolled visitation in some of our state and national parks. Overuse of wild land is the result of irresponsible management.

We have more visitors using a shorter trail than do neighboring preserves. Our trails cross steep hillsides with fragile soils and so are exceptionally vulnerable to overuse.

It is the responsibility of all of us, stewards and visitors alike, to protect this unique and fragile wilderness island. Our mission is to preserve the integrity of the Gorge for scientists, students, and hikers of tomorrow. Please help us by cooperating with our stewardship guidelines today.

Winter walking is available at many nearby parks and preserves. Butler Sanctuary, Westmoreland Sanctuary and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation are within a few miles of here. Please do call us at (914) 234-3455 if you have any questions.  We look forward to seeing you in the spring. Thank you very much for your understanding and cooperation.

Tree ID Pop Quiz

MRG’s Budd Veverka led an enjoyable and informative walk through Mianus River Gorge Preserve to help participants learn to identify trees by their bark, leaves, and fruit. Budd helped us answer some of these questions:

1. Which native species is allopathic, sending out a poison of sorts to discourage other trees from growing in its vicinity? Black oak, black walnut, or black birch?

2. How many needles does a white pine have?

3. Which tree’s bark appears to have silvery stripes that look like a tiger’s?

4. What does dendrology mean?

5. Which native shrub has a name that is associated with a magical being but really means “bendy”?

6. What is the fastest growing tree in the forest, identifiable by its tall, straight trunk and leaves with a cat’s ears shape?

7. Which tree sheds large pieces of leathery bark from its trunk that then remains smooth and white?

8. What are two types of hickory trees commonly found in our area, discernable by their compound leaves with 7-9 leaflets and very different looking nuts?


1. Black walnut
2. Five (remember it by the five letters that spell white)
3. Red oak
4. The study of trees
5. Witch hazel, from Middle English “wyche” meaning pliant or “bendy”
6. Tulip poplar
7. Sycamore
8. Shag bark and Pignut hickory

That’s just a small sample of what participants learned on the Tree ID walk. After the walk, participants may look at trees in a whole new way, looking for clues that help one tell a white oak from a red oak, a black birch from a yellow birch, and a red maple from a sugar maple. And that’s just the beginning! If you missed this year’s Tree ID walk, we hope you’ll join us next year to hone your skills or learn about simple leaves, composite leaves, needles, lobes, and more to determine a tree.

Invasive Species Update

Invasive Species Update

A major component of the Mianus River Gorge strategic management plan is invasive species control. The task of eradicating invasive vines, plants, and other pests, such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, seems endless. However, MRG remains optimistic that many can and will be controlled, and others may become naturalized over time.

In the meantime, Mianus River Gorge has approached the challenges presented by a wide variety of invasive species in a number of ways:

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
MRG embarked on a two-year campaign to save the ancient hemlocks in the forest from a destructive, aphid-like insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid that literally sucks the life out of a tree. After careful consideration and consultation with Cornell Cooperative Extension, MRG contracted with a DEC-certified chemical applicator to spray the bark of infected trees to kill both adelgid and hemlock scale, a second pest. We have treated over 1,400 trees to date, and the trees appear to be healthier. The treatment lasts for up to seven years, so in the interim, MRG is evaluating biocontrols that prey on the adelgid and could keep it under control naturally.


NYS DEC Invasive Species Rapid Response & Control
MRG is in the second year of a three-year grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to respond to and control outbreaks of several invasive species on their target list. With funding from DEC, we engaged the Invasive Task Force Crew to help with efforts to remove Japanese barberry, Mile-a-minute vine, and other invasives from the old-growth forest.



Invasives ID Walk
Director of Land Management Budd Veverka led a group of visitors to the Gorge on a walk to identify the invasive species that are of particular concern to the Gorge and to homeowners. The list of invasive plants is as long as Mile-a-minute vine can grow in a day and includes Oriental bittersweet, winged euonymus, Japanese barberry, mugwort, phragmites, garlic mustard, allanthus, bishops weed, and more.



College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE)
Each summer MRG hosts four college-age students who work on applied-ecology research projects and help staff with the day-to-day management of the Preserve. This includes some days spent pulling vines and other invasive species. Interns help replace the removed invasives with native wildflowers and other herbaceous plants in the deer exclosures and other areas in the Gorge. MRG staff, interns, and volunteers spent over 300 combined hours removing invasive plants and vines from in and around the Preserve.


Volunteer Days
In addition to scheduled Volunteer Days, MRG hosts corporate groups who volunteer to spend a day at the Gorge helping with a variety of projects. This year, several groups from Xylem came and helped pull Oriental bittersweet, winged euonymus, and several other species from along the side of the road to prevent them from spreading into the Preserve. MRG is grateful to the volunteers who donated their time and effort to help us get ahead of the invasives curve.



Land Acquisitions
Mianus River Gorge has been fortunate to acquire several parcels of land over the past several months that will now be preserved and protected in perpetuity. Some parcels are in better condition than others, so MRG begins with a survey of flora to determine the relative health of the land. MRG develops a stewardship plan for each property to determine how serious an invasives problem may be and how best to tackle it. We also look for the presence of native wildflowers, plants, shrubs, and trees and endeavor to keep them healthy.


MRG partners with Partnership for Regional Invasives Species Management, an organization that conveys awareness of invasive species in the Lower Hudson region and provides solutions for tackling them. PRISM organizes the Invasive Task Force Crew that is available to help organizations like ours accomplish a lot more than we’d otherwise be able to. Thanks to the DEC grant mentioned above, MRG will continue to engage the Crew for the next couple of years.

Invasives Management Plan
Openings in the canopy have allowed invasive species to flourish, out competing native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. Over the summer, Matt Gomes, a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Eric Cioci, a graduate of Stamford High School and current student at the University of Rochester, assessed forest openings in the old-growth hemlock forest and its upland buffer. They cataloged 54 forest openings and began management efforts on 13, which included planting 500 hemlock trees and fast-growing tulip trees.


Invasive species management is an ongoing part of properly stewarding Mianus River Gorge Preserve and the other land we protect. Thank you for your support of our efforts.

Donation adds 13 acres to MRGP

Thanks to an extremely generous donation from Susan Heller, Mianus River Gorge (the Preserve) has just added almost 13 acres of sugar maple woodlands along Mianus River Road. This beautiful land was once the site of an orchard in the late 1800’s and now is a mature sugar maple grove. Laced with ancient stone walls and other remnants of its past use, this maturing forest provides an important buffer for older forest lands within the interior of the Preserve.

Ms. Heller’s family at one time owned much of the land along this part of Mianus River Road, and her parents gave donations of vital pieces of land to the Gorge in the past. “It is extremely rare to receive such a gift in this day and age when land is worth so much,” said Rod Christie, Executive Director of Mianus River Gorge. “We are extremely grateful to Susie for this gift and promise to take as good care of it as she and her family have for so many years. It is truly a spectacular addition to the Preserve.”

Walkers and other people enjoying Mianus River Road are very familiar with this land and can now take comfort in knowing that its beautiful vistas can be enjoyed by all for years to come.

2018 Wildlife Tech Application is up!

The Mianus River Gorge is currently accepting applications from the Class of 2020 for our Wildlife Technician Program (WTP). The WTP provides an opportunity for high school students to design, implement, and evaluate multi-year studies in the field of ecology within the framework of the Science Research in the High School curriculum. The WTP is part of a larger effort involving graduate students and local professional biologists who are working to conserve and protect our local natural resources.

Why should you send your students to the Gorge?

  • The mentor to student ratio is low, usually 1:1. Students get in-depth, personal attention at each stage of their project.
  • Students conduct research on important conservation issues from human-coyote coexistence to the use of bio-control agents to control the spread of exotics. Techs are not only students, but part of a larger research and conservation community.
  • WTP research is getting noticed! Our student and staff research have been featured in Urban Naturalist, Forest Ecology and Management, the Journal of Wildlife Management, and the Westchester County Conservation Cafe.

Students can learn more about our program and download our WTP application at our website.

Applications are due Nov 15.  Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Volunteer Work Day Sept. 29

Come on out to help keep the Preserve in good condition, both for hikers and its unique flora and fauna. Your help is needed to do some trail work and some invasive species removal work. This work is both important and gratifying as you can see the results of a job well done!

Saturday, Sept. 29, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Bring a lunch if you plan to stay the whole time & work gloves if you have them.

Bring a friend!

RSVP to or call (914) 234-3455.

CISE Students Wrap Up at the Gorge

2018 College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) students wrap up at Mianus River Gorge

Each summer, Mianus River Gorge offers a highly sought-after internship for undergraduate college students with an interest in ecology. Under the tutelage of MRG staff scientists and graduate research assistants, the interns contribute to the Gorge’s on-going research in and around the Preserve.

This year, four students were selected among a pool of talented applicants from colleges across the country. Mianus River Gorge hosted Scott Campbell of Ursinus College, Amandine Tooth of University of British Columbia, Heather Williams of University of Vermont, and Jake Spinella of SUNY Geneseo.

Mianus River Gorge is engaged in several research initiatives and on-going stewardship of the Preserve and its environs. The CISE students contribute greatly to our efforts during their time spent at the Gorge.

For example, the students assisted Chris Nagy and Budd Veverka with wildlife camera deployment for the Gotham Coyote Project and the Bear Study. “We traveled around the county to collect data from cameras that hoped to find black bears. We learned about urban / suburban ecology as we traveled down to the NYC area to collect data from camera traps that show evidence of animals like coyotes which are adept at living in these conditions,” said Scott Campbell. They also managed the Turtle Study that aims to restore a previously successful nesting site and protect it from predation using a solar-powered electric fence that allows turtles to pass underneath. Wildlife cameras monitor predators, breeding, and possible poaching activities.

The students assisted Ph.D. candidate Zach Gajewski, our RAP student from Virginia Tech, with his Frog Study. Zach’s research focuses on the distribution of the pathogenic chytrid fungus that affects frogs and other amphibians. They also helped Nicole Fusco with her study of the two-lined salamander population in the Mianus River Watershed and found another species, the four-toed salamander, quite uncommon in the Gorge.

The college students also spent time focused on their own projects, including monitoring the health of the hemlocks in the forest; reconfiguring the exclosures to allow predators to pass through while keeping deer out; estimating the population of the Gorge’s deer herd; and evaluating the Deer Management Program. “I researched the geology of the area to create a sign that explains the structure and mineralogy of the Hobby Hill Quarry. I learned computer programs like R and GIS as well as lots of useful information about post-graduate life,” said Jake Spinella.

Stewardship is always a major focus of college students’ internships here. They helped remove invasive weeds and vines; helped repair the deer exclosures; pitched in during Volunteer Days; and helped build steps and retaining walls along the trails. They got dirty and sweaty but remained cheerful and enthusiastic contributors to our efforts to take care of the Preserve.

Mianus River Gorge’s Research & Education program is the bellwether for like-minded organizations in the region. Students get a hands-on ecology research experience, meaningful field experience, learn best practices in data collection, interpretation and presentation, and better understand the path for further study or a career in the sciences.

MRG raises funds to pay the college interns a very modest stipend. If you would like to donate to the Research & Education program and help support an intern, please visit our donation page. Thank you!

Summer Reading

Welcome to the old-growth forest! Walking through the Gorge, many say, is like visiting “the forest primeval” — deep, dark and old, more like the venerable redwood forests of the west than the second-growth forests so common in the east. Visitors get the feeling they are stepping back in time and getting a rare glimpse of what it was like when Native Americans lived on this land.

If you’d like to learn more about the complex world of old-growth forests, you might like Joan Maloof’s newest book, “Nature’s Temples.”

Do you prefer fiction? “The Overstory: A Novel” by Richard Powers is a candidate for the Man Booker Prize and a popular book club choice. “The science in this novel ranges from fun fact to mind-blowing, brought to us by characters — some scientists, mostly not — who are sweet or funny or maddening in all the relatable ways.”  (NYT Book Review.)

If you’re someone who orders books on Amazon, please use and choose Mianus River Gorge as the organization you’d like to receive a small percentage of the amount you spend.  Thank you!


Gotham Coyote Project Update

In a new phase of Gotham Coyote Project, researchers are piloting satellite telemetry in the Bronx. Visit MRG’s media page or click here to read an article in amNewYork about coyotes fitted with radio collars as part of a joint effort by the Gotham Coyote Project and the New York City Parks Department.


MRG Welcomes 2018 Summer Interns


Scott, Amandine, Heather, and Jake (2018 CISE)

Welcome to our College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) Summer Interns

Amandine Tooth completed her degree in applied animal biology at the University of British Columbia. She will be starting graduate studies in the fall in Sweden where she will be studying animal ecology.

Amandine will be dedicated to helping with the annual deer survey and looking at alternatives to using camera traps. She will, of course, be helping with the ongoing work of invasive species management, trail maintenance, and other projects as the summer progresses.

Heather Williams is a rising senior at University of Vermont where she is a biology major.

Heather and her fellow interns are mentored by Mianus River Gorge staff while learning about the unique challenges facing urban/suburban natural resource managers. She will be working on hemlock monitoring with Chris and Budd and learning GIS technology at the same time.

Jake Spinella is a rising senior at SUNY Geneseo where he is majoring in geology.

Jake will be assisting with a variety of MRG’s research and land management projects and learning the skills needed to pursue a successful career in the environmental sciences. He will also focus on MRG’s deer management program (DMP).

Scott Campbell is a rising junior at Ursinus College where he is majoring in environmental studies.

Scott and the other interns work in the exclosures in the Preserve that keep deer out to preserve biodiversity and serve as protected sites for plant reintroduction.

Once again, the interns were chosen from yet another impressive group of students who applied through a competitive application process. Thank you to the generous supporters of Mianus River Gorge’s award-winning Research & Education Program.

The mission of Mianus River Gorge, an independent, not-for-profit organization, is to preserve, protect and promote appreciation of the natural heritage of the Mianus River watershed through land acquisition and conservation, scientific research and public education throughout the region.
Mianus River Gorge, 167 Mianus River Road, Bedford, New York 10506     914-234-3455

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