Proposals for hill towns stream improvement and access

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Fox Creek near Foxenkill Lodge<br.>ca. 2003, Jeremy Rue

The streams and creeks in the hill towns are tributaries of either the Hudson or the Mohawk Rivers; and since the Mohawk joins the Hudson, they all eventually drain into the Hudson. Major streams in the hill towns:

Problems

  • Limited public access - Years ago NYS stocked trout in the hilltowns but that stopped because there is no legal public access.
  • The hill town streams are not good trout habitat. They are generally too warm to support a healthy population of trout.
- Human sewage pollution from houses in some of the hamlets and elsewhere along the creeks create pollution problem. This especially true of the houses and businesses in the hamlet of Berne which will soon be connected to a new sewage system in the hamlet that will be constructed in the next few years.
- Non-point pollution control, especially agricultural runoff due to fertilizers and to cattle.
  • There is excessive bank erosion due to lack of vegetation along the stream bed.

Proposals

Riparian buffers, or streamside plantings, are a major component to maintaining healthy streams.

  • Property owners can protect streams and buffers by allowing native trees, shrubs and vegetation to grow, while reducing pavement, lawn areas, farm animal usage, and removing invasive plant species.
  • Towns can enact local watercourse buffer ordinances, conservation overlays, and implement buffer protections through State Environmental Quality Reviews (SEQR),
  • Conservation groups and land trusts can purchase conservation easements to legally protect stream buffers.
  • Volunteers can plant trees and shrubs along the banks to help prevent both bank erosion and at the same time cooling the waters for trout. The NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program operates the "Trees for Tribs" program, which provides native trees and shrubs for streamside landowners who apply to the program.

Berne

  • Create public access. The hamlet of Berne turns its back on Fox Creek, which if treated right, would be a valuable resource for the hamlet. Develop a Fox Creek Trail along the banks of the creek.
- Perhaps the land on the south side of the Foxenkill between Fox Creek Park and Berne Town Park could be bought. The land has not much value to its present absentee owner because of it's inaccessibility from the main Yarmchuk farm which is on the opposite bank. On the other hand, it is very accessible from the hamlet side, especially the school, and would be a valuable addition to Fox Creek Park. If the land can not be bought cheaply, perhaps a right-of-way for a trail could be purchased or would be given to the town. The trail could be used by the school's cross country team, by kids going to school from the eastern part of the hamlet, and by hikers and photographers taken with the serene beauty of the Foxenkill.
- Create access from the school for nature trail and for the cross country team.
- Create access from the Berne Town Park for hikers and photographers taken with the beauty of the Foxenkill.
  • Non-point pollution control, especially agricultural runoff, should be corrected through volunteer participation in federal programs at no cost to the farmer or loss of rights.
  • Watershed Study - The town should consider undertaking a Foxenkill and Switzkill Watershed Study.