2003-09-26 / Community

Cow Path Closed By Marsh Restoration

By Brian Magoolaghan
Cow Path Closed By Marsh Restoration

The dredge being used to restore a local marsh area sits in the Cow Path at low tide.The dredge being used to restore a local marsh area sits in the Cow Path at low tide.

The shortcut through Big Egg Marsh, known to many boaters as the Cow Path, has been closed to motorboats and could be permanently off-limits.

As part of the ongoing restoration of the marsh, thousands of grass plants will be installed early next month, and boat traffic could reduce their chances at survival, according to the National Park Service (NPS), who made the announcement this week.

The closure "may be for a year or two...depending on what we find, it could be permanent," said David Avrin, of the NPS. Dan Mundy, a Broad Channel resident whose group Ecowatchers has worked closely with the NPS and Congressman Anthony Weiner's office on this project said he thought the closure seemed temporary, and that the path would be open for next year's boating season.

The Cow Path is a well-traveled shortcut through a large section of marsh near Broad Channel's southwestern edge. For decades it has allowed boaters to travel much faster from the Channel's west side canal area to the water near the Cross Bay Bridge, and vice versa.

The Cow Path closure should eliminate one threat to the new grass, but geese and weather could ultimately prevent the grass from taking hold. Geese relish these grass plantings like humans enjoy asparagus tips, Mundy said, so nets will be installed to keep the birds from feasting.

But the grass still may not survive. Late spring and summer, not the start of fall, is the best time for planting marsh grass, Avrin said.

With most of the spraying done, and up to two feet of sediment on top of the marsh, Mundy said dredging would continue for about another week. There was a three-day setback, caused by hurricane Isabel, he said, but the nasty weather did little if any harm in the restoration area.

The dredge-and-spray effort to restore Big Egg Marsh started in late August. The $400,000 project is a test to see if taking fine sediment from the bottom of the bay and distributing it over the marsh either slows or reverses its disappearance. The hope is that the existing grass will grow up through the sand, and that new plantings will make the marsh denser. Studies have indicated that Jamaica Bay saltmarshes are dying off at a rate of up to 50 acres per year, according to the NPS. Human-induced alterations to the bay are to blame, they said.

Groups of 10-12 volunteers are needed for each of the 10 days that the grass is planted. In all, about 20,000 plants will be added between September 30 and October 12. In each group, two or three people will dig holes, the same number will install the plants, and others will carry three to five pound bundles of plants out to the marsh. To help, contact Cathy DeFilippis, of Gateway National Recreation Area, at 718-338-3501.

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