Tag Archives: Ecology

The Lambertville Swallow Sign Decline

2017/4/23-Swallow Sign Decline-02

Whatever happened to the Cliff Swallow colony that lived under the Lambertville-New Hope Bridge??

Friday, April 19, 2019— This Spring I saw Cliff Swallows at Center Bridge (at Stockton) and Bulls Island, but are there any Cliff Swallows nesting on the Lambertville-New Hope Bridge any more?

In short, yes. At around 10:00 am today, I counted 10 Cliff Swallows plunging from the underside of the Lambertville New Hope Bridge, flying erratically and quickly out, and up, and away, as they do, before you can snap a photo. That’s good.

But as recently as 2013 there were 75-100 Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge and following those crazy flight patterns to catch insects and return them to waiting chicks. I’ve checked a couple more times, at different times of the day, but the news is no different. There is a small colony beneath the bridge. I will, check again later in the Spring. Meanwhile check out the slide show.

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Here’s what happened in the six photos above:

  1. The Frame started to come off the sign.
  2. Someone pushed the frame back on, and stuck a brick under it to hold it in place.
  3. The frame came off completely
  4. Something happened to the sign, it was removed, and the supporting panel remained.
  5. The metal panel attracted stickers and graffitti
  6. The graffitti-ed metal panel was removed, leaving just the sign post.

May 1, 2019 — I promised an update. In March I wrote a query on the Contact form at the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission web site.

DRJTBC Contact Form – Christopher Plummer Submitted Web Contact Form

Submitted 2019/03/05 9:13 PM on:

Regarding the New Hope – Lambertville Bridge: Around 1981 the DRJTBC placed an informational sign for pedestrians on the Lambertville side of the bridge that commemorated the bridge as a home for the Cliff Swallows (birds) that have maintained a colony under the bridge, returning every Spring. (The Center Bridge- Stockton Bridge also has a similar sign.) The sign in Lambertville has fallen into disrepair in the past few years and has now disintegrated into a shiny steel rectangle plastered with stickers and graffiti. There is a DRJTBC number and barcode on the back of the sign by which it can be identified.

As a long time resident of Lambertville, I would very much like to see the sign restored with the art and information about the swallows that it once had. (I have photographs I’d be happy to share.)

Is it possible that DRJTBC could find a way to repair this sign?

Thank you.
Christopher Plummer

 

And then on April 1 (I’m not laughing), I got this response:

From: Joseph F. Donnelly jdonnelly@drjtbc.org
Subject: Response to your inquiry to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge CommissionDate: 04/01/2019 at5:53PM

Christopher Plummer:
Thank you for visiting the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission’s website and using the “contact us” portal.
Please be advised that the New Hope-Lambertville Toll-Supported Bridge sign you referenced in your message no longer exists and was not produced by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC).
As I recall, the sign promoted how proceeds from the New Jersey Wildlife Income Tax Check Off were utilized to place artificial nests at the New Hope-Lambertville Tax- Supported Bridge after the bridge’s concrete walkway was replaced by a laminated timber deck walkway in 1982 (subsequently replaced with the current walkway in 2004). (Note: The formal name of the bridge in 1982 was the New Hope-Lambertville Tax-Supported Bridge since it was jointly owned by the two states until July 1987, when its ownership was transferred outright to the DRJTBC.) The Commission, which controlled the bridge at that time on behalf of the two states, cooperated in the post-project remediation efforts regarding the migratory swallows.
Please understand that there is nothing in the Commission’s meeting minutes or in our engineering department’s records that support your assertion that the sign was placed at the location by the DRJTBC. I found nothing in the official record that shows the Commission requisitioning, procuring, or paying for the sign. Regrettably, it’s unclear who exactly produced the sign.
What I can tell you is the following:

In conducting research for an historical account that I compiled on the bridge crossing’s200th anniversary in 2014, I noted that the sign had the headline “Cliff Swallows Benefit from NJ Wildlife Income Tax Check Off” and its content explained a swallow-nest remediation effort that took place at the bridge back in the 1980s (over 30 years ago). For your edification, the sign’s credit line said the illustration and design were by Doreen Curtin with a copyright of 1984, suggesting the sign was placed at some point during or after that year. It also said “Screen Printing by Aztec Graphics.” But the sign did not cite what agency or group produced it.

That said, the Commission is not in a position to repair the sign for the following reasons: 1. It had fallen into disrepair and had outlived its purpose in promoting a project that took place more than three decades ago. 2. The Commission did not produce the sign. 3. Whatever entity did produce the sign never maintained it after its installation.

While I can’t speak unilaterally for this agency on a matter such as this, it’s certainly conceivable the Commission would be open to considering installation of acceptable signage referencing the bridge’s swallows and/or swallow nests if some organization or entity were to again shoulder the time, effort, and costs of design and production.

– Joe Donnelly
Deputy Executive Director of Communications DRJTBC
New Hope, PA.

 

So…we have more information. I had forgotten the initial connection of the sign to the appreciation of the nests disturbed beneath the bridge and the careful restoration of ceramic nests in the hopes of maintainting the colony. I am quite sure that subsequent “upgrades” to the footpath over the bridge—which is now some kind of plastic-paint-covered metal—were not so attentive to the colony.
The sign disappeared mysteriously shortly after I sent my query. I don’t believe in coincidences.
Maybe we can get someone to step up and restore the sign as suggested by Mr. Donnelly? But first, I think it’s more important to restore the appreciation for the birds themselves, the Cliff Swallows of Lambertville, which appear to be in decline to the point of non-existence.
Peace Out,
— Christo

 

Lambertville Tree Clearing Update—Coryell to Bridge, and South

March 26, 2019

In previous correspondence,  NJWSA stated they would,

“Thin-out the underbrush and small trees on the western bank and in and on the stone wall between Coryell Street and Bridge Street.”
In fact nearly every tree between Coryell and Bridge has been eliminated, and if not for citizen and mayoral intervention, the large tree near the Bridge Street bridge would have been removed. (Photos forthcoming, details below).
From: Judy Detrano
Date: March 23, 2019 at 9:53:57 PM EDT
To: Christopher Plummer, Julia Fahl
Subject: Re: Trees along the canal (info now on my blog)

Hi Chris,

I have but a bit more information which I will email you tomorrow.  I was with them as they cut away and with the help of Mayor Julia and Cindy Ege we saved the tree by the canal at the bridge alongside the Princeton Bank.   Michael A. Sellar was the Facility Manager , Delaware & Raritan Canal Office, that I spoke with on site.  <snip> The destruction of our trees in and around Lambertville has become an issue to be addressed and we need the support of a number of departments, including NJ DEP.

 

March 25, 2019

Hello again Chris,

FYI…
Upon speaking with Michael Sellar of the NJWSA on-site the day they cut down the trees from Coryell to Bridge Street in Lambertville the following answers to my questions were as follows:
1.  The cutting of the trees was to prevent them from falling into the canal which would undermine the drinking quality of the water
2.  They believe the trees and shrubs are destroying the structure of the stone wall along the canal, river side of the canal
3.  They are not fixing, replacing or relining the stone canal wall (even though the stones are there in the canal) because the budget allotment  does not cover the expense to do so.  It is faster, easier & cheaper to cut down the trees.
4.  He has no explanation for why a tree here and there was left uncut but they would be happy to come back and cut them down.  (3 trees remain by the River Horse Brewery building)
5.  He is not aware of any advance notice required to the city of Lambertville as that side of the canal falls under their maintenance obligations.
6.  The towpath side of the canal will not be sheared by them as that side of the canal is under the authority of NJ State Parks Commission.
7.  They admit that their maintenance of the canal has been neglected for close to 25 years due to budget constrictions
8.  They can be stymied by the Shade Tree Commission from cutting down a tree that falls under the Shade Tree protection.
+The NJWSA supposedly has a Capital Fund Component for Capital Improvement..where is that money and why not fix the stone wall
+They are indeed required to notify the public if more than 1/2 acre is to be ‘deforested’ with 60 days to hold a public hearing
+ I have not ascertained their responsibility to notify the City of Lambertville
+ They might have had to submit a tree cutting plan to the Division of Parks & Forestry as the property is also NJState Park property. (or should have)
+ It may be possible to demand some sort of replanting to refurbish the embankment via the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
+ There were no Project Updates or notices on the NJWSA website referring to Lambertville that I uncovered
+ There appears to be no coordination/integration/communication between the various commissions to control either of  committees/authority/commssions to review, supervise or hold to any aesthetics of proposed work, nor review of the destruction of wildlife habitats, particularly to bird species and bats.
+ If the DRCC has jurisdiction over the entire state-owned D & R Canal, should they have not been notified and required to offer approvals of the NJWSA ?
+ Also, where would a public notice appear that would reach the residents of Lambertville without their needing to search for such a notice.
+ And, I have heard, with no further information, explanations or confirmations, that the railroad had leased the property to which the rails are on, but that their lease had/has expired and there is no current enforceable lease at this time.  Does that not restrict them from doing anything along the tracks through Lambertville until that is made more clear and current in their authority to do so.  AND that the railroad does impact our wildlife habitats, noise and air pollution…..and what input do the residents of Lambertville have, if any, to curtail their work in our city.
Regards,
Judy Detrano

 

Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact their representatives:


The City of Lambertville
Mayor Julia Fahl
City Hall
18 York Street
Lambertville, NJ  08530
Telephone:  609.397.0110
 “Ask the Mayor”


John Hutchison
Executive Director
Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
609-397-2000

John.hutchison@dep.nj.gov


Clinton Administration Building
1851 State Route 31
P.O. Box 5196
Clinton, NJ 08809
P: (908) 638-6121
F: (908) 638-5241

info@njwsa.org


Patricia Kallesser
Park Superintendent
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609.924.5705

Peace Out
— Christo

Ready or Not

Friday, March 15, 2019
Work continues on clearing the rails for the Lambertville Tourist Train. No estimates on actual arrival of an engine with cars. Maybe they want to have one on display in time for Shad Fest? But maybe the crumbling canal walls and collapsing roadbed should be shored up first?


“You call it progress. I call it destruction.”— Comment of an anonymous five-year-old on watching the take-down of large tree.


 “They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum…”

—🚕 “Big Yellow Taxi“, Joni Mitchell

PEACE OUT

— Christo

Tree Stump Gallery #1

Photos of Delaware Canal Tree Clearing in Lambertville, New Jersey 2018-2019

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
— 🚕 “
Big Yellow Taxi“, Joni Mitchell

 

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No, this has nothing to do with the “Emerald Ash Borer”. For information about this Tree and Brush Clearing Project go here.


Tree Stump Gallery #1 — 53 Photos

 

 

Peace Out…

— Christo

Authorities say Canal-side Brush and Tree Clearing in Lambertville is NOT for the Railroad, but…

Tree Stumps and Survivor Guilt on the Canal Path-011🚂 Looks Like, But is Not the Railroad—In a short section of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Lambertville, between Coryell Street and the empty River Horse Brewery, sixty to one hundred trees, some apparently close to fifty years old, were converted to wood chips and sawdust in a matter of days. Was this part of the initiative to preemptively strike at the Emerald Ash Borer beetle? Nope, most of those trees were felled already, their trunks can be seen lining the canal path between Lambertville and FrenchTown.

And it wasn’t just the trees—shrubs, vines, weeds, saplings, and pretty much any other living thing was scraped clean from the railroad tracks to the canal bank (See photos.) So what was this all about?

Ask just about anyone in Lambertville familiar with the situation and they’ll tell you, “It’s the railroad!” To many surprised residents the recent tree and brush clearing appeared to be an effort to clear the overgrown and unused railroad tracks for the “Tourist Train” proposed by Black River and Western Railroad. BRWR hopes to run on weekends behind Clinton Street, over the “Nifti” Bridge behind Rojo’s Roastery and the Roxy Ballet Studio, passing over Alexauken Creek and proceeding to Ringoes and Flemington and back.

Despite appearances, according to several authorities, officially, the clearing work is unrelated to the railroad.

Why so much confusion? No signs, no notices—Work began abruptly in December of 2018 with no apparent advance notice provided to residents or local businesses, nor to the officials of the City of Lambertville. No signs were posted on the canal path. Similar work had been performed some years ago closer to Bridge Street, but the recent work was more “thorough”— or drastic, depending on your perspective—this time only a few trees were allowed to remain.

Concerned citizens contacted Lambertville City authorities, discovered that they had no information about the project, and were referred to the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission.

Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission Executive Director, John Hutchison, explained “the project is being undertaken by the NJ Water Supply Authority pursuant to the 1986 lease agreement with the State” for the purpose of clearing the canal and maintaining the water flow. He explained, “Jurisdiction over the D&R Canal is somewhat complex…”

“I hope this information is useful.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Also, the Commission meets monthly to review project applications and our meetings always include a public comment portion.  The Commission meets the third Wednesday of the month at 10:00 a.m. in the Prallsville Mill Complex in Stockton.” — John Hutchison, Executive Director D&R Canal Commission


D&R Canal State Park Superintendent Patricia Kallesser met one Lambertville resident and explained that this ongoing work of the NJWSA had to do with maintaining the water flow in the canal and upkeep of the historical (stone wall) structures. When asked about the lack of communication, she explained that the NJWSA web site maintained a FAQ about it on their web site.


The New Jersey Water Supply Authority at this writing does not list the Lambertville work on its “Public Notices”, but it is explained on their “Maintenance Along the D&R Canal FAQ”.

I emailed the NJWSA (to the “Info” mailbox, as no name was available on the site):

From: Christopher Plummer
Sent: Tuesday, January 1, 2019 10:54 AM
To: info
Subject: Please consider local interests w/Canal Brush and Tree Clearing in and around Lambertville

Dear NJ Water Services Authority,

I, and other residents, merchants, and “canal walkers” were very surprised by the recent clearing of over 100 trees, some large, 20-30 years old, and the “buzz cutting” of brush and shrubs from the railroad tracks to the edge of the canal starting near Finkel’s Hardware on Coryell Street and moving North on the West side of the canal. This work adversely impacted:

  • Bird and animal life and habitat prized by many residents, businesses, and tourists.
  • Local Visual aesthetics, exposing parking lots and warehouses that were screened by foliage, leaving a trail of tree stumps and giving that section of the canal an industrial appearance that had previously been “natural”.
  • Noise – the elimination of trees and shrubs that provided an acoustic buffer to the noise from the river recreation, roads, and New Hope.

<snip>

May I suggest in the future:

  1. Inform the public with accurate information about the purpose, scope, schedule, and likely impact of the work by posting signs on the canal path and in local papers, and phone calls to local officials.
  2. Provide time and a means for those concerned to give feedback before the work is started.
  3. Please give some weight and consideration to those concerns and find a balance between the preservation of historical structures and the preservation of current flora and wildlife habitat.

Thank you for your consideration, and best wishes for the New Year.

Sincerely,

Christopher Plummer

The NJWSA provided a response (below) to my query:
From: info <info@njwsa.org>
Subject: RE: Please consider local interests w/Canal Brush and Tree Clearing in and around Lambertville
Date: January 18, 2019 at 11:24:00 AM EST
To: ‘Christopher Plummer’
Dear Mr. Plummer,

Thank you for your concerned email and our apologies for the delay in response.  And thank you for your suggestions on future public notification, which we will certainly take under advisement.

As you know, the Authority’s mission is to maintain a flow of water through the Canal to provide raw water supply for our customers.  Our Canal maintenance crews and engineers need to “see” the embankment.  Seeing the embankment often helps us to prevent damage to the embankment that may develop from tree roots or animal burrows which can lead to seepage paths or from damage when the trees fall and their root balls remove sections of the embankment.  The Authority’s needs to see the embankment are constantly balanced with the wants and needs of Canal park walkers, joggers, bikers, nature enthusiasts, fishermen, historians, neighbors, and others [My emphasis—Christo] , all of whom may have a different idea of what maintenance should look like on the 60 plus mile Canal.   We tried to provide an understanding of our work in the FAQ’s that were recently posted on the website.

 

For the upcoming winter work on the Canal in Lambertville, crews may begin again as early as the week of January 21, 2019.  The exact schedule for the winter maintenance is weather dependent, and subject to equipment and personnel availability, and will include the following (in no particular order):
  1. Thin-out the underbrush and small trees on the western bank and in and on the stone wall between Coryell Street and Bridge Street.
  2. Clearing the vegetation from the Lambertville lock walls.
  3. Felling three Ash trees from the east side of the Canal, upstream of the Lambertville Lock.
  4. Removing the trees growing from the stone wall, on the river side of the embankment, from the wing dam (in the River) and downstream.
Items #1 thru #3 should only take several days each and should be completed this winter.
Item #4 will take quite a bit of time and will most likely occur over several years depending on other emergent items that need to be addressed and may stop and restart within the same year.
Feel free to share this information with other concerned residents.
(No sender name identified)

I Guess that was the Public Notice. I forwarded a copy to the City of Lambertville. I haven’t seen any new notices or additional information about the canal work. Have you? The NJWSA is apparently continuing their work up the south end of town as described in the email.

Local railroad supporters on Facebook are urging residents not to “listen to rumors” and espousing the wonders of bringing the iron horse, full of tourists, to Lambertville to reinvigorate our little town.

🚂 Meanwhile if it quacks like a duck…  At the North end of town small crews and individuals with mowers and chainsaws are clearing the railroad tracks. They make no pretense about working for the Water Authority.

Feb. 26, 2019 Tuesday – Today NJWRA trucks and teams are clearing the rails and canal, between Coryell and Bridge, chipping as they go.

Eagles check nesting options
—By the way, the empty nest this late in the season suggests that Bald Eagles will not be nesting on the power tower over Alexauken Creek this year. In 2017 they raised three fledglings at the site, not far from the “Nifti” Railroad Bridge and abandoned rail car at the north end of the trail in Lambertville.


Residents who wish to communicate their concerns about the destruction of wildlife habitat, the need for trees and brush as a visual screen and natural noise buffer, and other concerns are urged to contact any or all of the individuals and organizations below:

 

The City of Lambertville
Mayor Julia Fahl
City Hall
18 York Street
Lambertville, NJ  08530
Telephone:  609.397.0110
 “Ask the Mayor”


John Hutchison
Executive Director
Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
609-397-2000

John.hutchison@dep.nj.gov


Clinton Administration Building
1851 State Route 31
P.O. Box 5196
Clinton, NJ 08809
P: (908) 638-6121
F: (908) 638-5241

info@njwsa.org


Patricia Kallesser 
Park Superintendent 
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609.924.5705

Peace Out
— Christo

The Air We Breathe

Twenty years ago, maybe, the ozone layer was a big issue, and most anyone with eyes and a brain was at  least starting to think about “global warming*”.

It was summer, and coincidentally, I was at a picnic with family friends, one of whom was a government-employed environmentalist. The topic came up, we talked about automobile pollution and coal-fired power plants. It was a warm, pleasant afternoon in beautiful, Western Central New Jersey, and for the most part the sky was blue, with long white whisps high above, the man-made clouds that scar the sky, especially along those “skyways” from East to West that originate on the East Coast and point to California and beyond.

Mike, our hero, a bearded and unabashed ex-counterculture person (those of you too young to understand, would likely—and incorrectly—label him a “hippie”), paused from the discussion and gazed upward. “I wonder,” he said, without taking his eyes off the sky, “How long before we realize that is the real culprit…”

“Jets?” I asked.

“Jet exhaust, airline fuel.”

“They’ve done a great job cleaning up jet exhaust.” I said. Adding, “When I was a kid it was brown smoke spewing out like a diesel truck!”

image

“Unfortunately,” he said, “It’s a global world now, and everyone, everything, businesses, and governments are hooked on the ability to move people and goods quickly over vast distances-through the air. They’ve only made the pollution invisible. The truth is we’re spewing tons of hot, microscopic exhaust particles and vapor into the upper atmosphere, non-stop, every day, in massive and increasing amounts.”

“Is there science about that?”

“Not enough. And even if there is, nobody wants to know about it. Internal combustion for cars, energy for homes, powerplants. They can all be replaced and supplanted by solar, wind, all kinds of renewable alternatives. But have you ever heard of a solar powered 747? When statistics are published about “contributors to air pollution” jet exhaust is never mentioned. It’s not on the map. It’s like there’s a secret agreement to ignore it. Nobody is going to stop this. The answer is right there, in our faces, so obvious, and we are blind to it. We want to be blind to it.”

Ironically there was even an episode of “Star Trek the Next Generation” that metaphorically addressed this topic: It becomes clear to one species that all that warping around from planet-to-planet at faster-than-light speeds is tearing the fabric of the universe. Gosh darn it. Captain Picard and his whacky crew investigate and find that this is in fact true! Star Fleet is duly informed, and except for the most dire of planet-threatening emergencies, a moratorium is placed on traveling at faster than light speed – or is it faster than warp four or five? Anyway, this restriction is mentioned in one or two later episodes, and then without warning, it’s gone! Back to the ol’ routine. Make it so!! And there you have it. A Gene Roddenberry history of the human race.

That’s all. That’s the story. Not much has changed. That New Jersey summer conversation nested in the back of my brain for all these years like some obscure conspiracy theory. I thought about it after 9/11, when the skies got a short break and were eerily free of planes. And time moves on, and my gosh, humans move on. I’d heard about, and known people who had jobs requiring them to travel the world. You usually just think about the glamour and the glory. Not the impact. Hey, Tokyo, Seoul, Paris. I’ve been there. Once in a very rare while you hear about a business, or person like Al Gore, who supposedly has an awareness of what has come to be called his “carbon footprint”, and actually tries to mitigate it. “I flew to Singapore, so I’m paying to preserve some rain forest.” But more and more I hear about global commuters. Not the silver-haired CEOs in First Class, not people who have occasional “business travel”, but people who actually commute via jet every day to Boston from Philadelphia. Or every week or two to Europe…It’s kind of crazy. What does it mean? For anyone? For the planet? And now I’m one of them. What am I supposed to do? Stop? Just say no? I need to work. I want to see the world too. Maybe it’s really not a problem. Right? Right?

*Global Warming – I’m not a scientist, but I’ll talk about it. It means the planet is getting warmer. And that’s what it feels like to me. There’s enough science (if you read) to understand that man has had a significant causal influence on this. And there’s also enough science to call it “global climate change” if you prefer, (since some people have their pants scared off, by the “w” word). It’s happening, warming, warming causing “change”, whatever.