City, College Collaborate on Environmental Science Internships for Beach Trail Renewal
Three SUNY Plattsburgh environmental science majors are getting hands-on experience this summer, turning an overgrown, useless tract of land on the Plattsburgh City Beach property into useable, environmentally — and community — friendly space.
May 2021 ecology grad Tierney Mayette, environmental science seniors Devan Bushey and Rory Fischer, all from Plattsburgh, were tapped for the job when Mayor Chris Rosenquest, together with city Community Development Director Matt Miller, put the call out earlier in the year for interns “to assist with documentation, planning and development of a network of nature trails at the City Beach.”
Work will take place throughout the summer and may extend into the fall semester, city officials said.
“We’ll be clearing overgrown sections of trails, doing trash and waste removal as well as marking trails to facilitate community use,” Bushey said.
“The site has great potential for recreation, education and community events, and it’s a great opportunity for our students who are establishing careers in environmental management,” said Dr. Mary Alldred, assistant professor in the Center for Earth and Environmental Science.
Interns, faculty including Alldred, center associate and assistant professors Dr. Danielle Garneau, Dr. Curt Gervich, and Dr. Mark Lesser, respectively, along Dr. Michael Burgess of the biology department, Miller and representatives from Saratoga Associates, landscape architects and engineers, toured the site June 10 to get a lay of the land.
“No one could argue against the idea that green spaces and recreational areas are such a fundamental part sustaining a happy and healthy community,” Bushey said. “Now more than ever we are realizing the value in these spaces.”
According to Miller, the internship will include walking and mapping with geographical information systems software the existing trails along Scomotion Avenue in the city where the trails are overgrown and impassable. They’ll flag trees for future trail marking along the way.
In addition, they’ll tag junk they find for removal, note and photograph interesting areas for trail; users and city maintenance staff, which could include downed trees and difficult trail sections, wetlands and dunes, signs of hazardous waste from historic dumping, among other sightings.
“We will identify areas of overgrowth for city staff to remove and areas of importance, such as areas of unique habitat or environments,” Mayette said.
Interns will create a basic trail map and they’ll create a PowerPoint of trail assessment findings that city staff will then use.
“Once all of our assessments have been completed, a final map of the trail will be created to be used by the public and city staff,” Mayette said.
“This is an exciting skill-building and interdisciplinary collaboration, another opportunity for our students to gain real-world work experience and be part of something that will contribute positively to their community for years to come,” Garneau said.
“I’m hoping to gain some knowledge in the policy and processes that are involved in the development of these community spaces,” Bushey said. “After graduation, I hope to work in the development of sustainable hiking and nature trails in the Adirondacks — emphasis on sustainability. Creating trails that will have minimal negative environmental impact on the mountains, as well as working in outdoor education, would be my dream.”
Fischer has similar aspirations.
“I hope to gain experience that could be used for my career in the future as I hopefully will work around the Adirondacks,” Fischer said.
“As a wetland scientist and urban ecologist, I am thrilled to be involved in the City Beach project,” Alldred said. “It will improve public access to the beach and trails while maintaining the integrity of the forested wetlands and the many services they provide for our community.”
Mayette, who also works at Cumberland Bay State Park, is applying to graduate school “where I hope to further my education in the field of ecology and environmental science,” she said. As for the internship, she’s looking at it as a bonus to her SUNY Plattsburgh education.
“I hope to gain additional experience working in the field and identifying unique ecosystems and/or plants in the Plattsburgh area, which will further strengthen my current knowledge of ecology,” she said.
Bushey looks at her role philosophically.
“Nobody comes to a natural place with the intention to do harm,” she said. But lack of knowledge on consequences of certain actions causes the most damage to the places we share and care for. Hopefully, with proper push to inform people of how to recreate responsibly, we can protect our public lands so that anyone may enjoy them for years to come.”