After Irene Lee the Flats

After Hurricane Irene in New York’s Parks and Farmlands

Image Credit: Eric Krieger

New York, NY—September 9, 2011 — More than a week after Hurricane Irene slammed New York on its way up the East Coast, communities around the state—many with deep connections to the Open Space Institute—continue the daunting task of rebuilding farms, homes and lives in the aftermath of the storm. 

While it’s difficult to provide updates on the condition of every site OSI has helped protect over the years, below you’ll find links to some of the outlets that are keeping the public informed about special places throughout New York State.

“The damage caused by Hurricane Irene has been catastrophic, but it doesn’t diminish the importance of conserving these lands, nor will it diminish the Open Space Institute’s involvement in these communities,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO.

From Long Island to the Capital District, Irene caused widespread damage to New York’s 178 state parks and 35 historic sites. Issues cited by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) include flooding, damage to structures and roads, power outages, huge numbers of downed and hanging trees, and significant beachfront erosion. 

“Many of our state parks and historic sites were not immune to the storm that devastated so many families and businesses,” said OPRHP Commissioner Rose Harvey. “But even in difficult times such as these, our citizens look to their parks for a distraction from the stresses of life. Much of our state park staff worked non-stop to get our facilities back in shape for Labor Day weekend. I urge our visitors to be patient as we continue the work to recover from the storm.”

Some of the parks and historic sites that OSI helped protect remain closed or have limited access due to storm damage. For up-to-date information, we recommend checking the OPRHP website, where you can check the status of every park and historic site in the state. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also has a site that’s being updated frequently with information on which areas in the Adirondacks are open for public recreation.

For New York’s farmers, losses have been widespread and severe.

In the Catskills—an area touted for its great promise as a metropolitan foodshed—the Catskill Mountainkeeper reported record-breaking floods. The Watershed Post, an online Catskills news site, has posted a town-by-town news roundup that also includes a detailed list of flood relief resources.

Nearby farms in the Wallkill and Rondout valleys, many situated near the waters that help create such fertile soils, were similarly devastated by floods rising from those same waters. 

“It’s really wet out here,” said Bruce Davenport, the president of the Rondout Valley Growers Association, whose farm OSI helped protect in 2007. “A lot of crops were flooded, and this time of year everything has fruit on it. As soon as that goes under water, it’s no good.”

Davenport said that literally hundreds of crops were carried away in the Hudson River as Irene swept through Ulster County. 

“Even the plants that were salvaged are now starting to die amazingly fast. This year is basically shot,” he said. 

It’s unknown how much aid farmers will receive from government agencies and insurance companies. In the meantime, Davenport said that consumers can support agriculture in their communities as they always have, by buying locally as much as possible.

Given the circumstances, he said, the “buy local” adage could mean more now than it ever has before. 

“That’s the biggest thing that anybody can do. Shop locally. That’s all you can do.”

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