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AUGUST 12 - AUGUST 20, 2014

As Plans to Convert Jayne Park Progress, Critically Endangered Plant Found at Park

By Frank Parlato

August 12, 2014

The shore line of Jayne Park is the last of the undisturbed shores of Cayuga Island. Across the river is a heavily populated area. If Mayor Dyster clears the vegetation along the shores of Jayne Park, he may destroy rare plants and open up the view of people's backyards who for years have enjoyed privacy.

It is no secret that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster hopes to convert Jayne Park on Cayuga Island from a neighborhood park to a regional park.

The neighbors in the past have resisted. Jayne Park lies to the immediate left as one crosses the bridge over The Little Niagara River onto Cayuga Island from Buffalo Avenue on the mainland. The north shore of the park faces the Little Niagara River.

Part of Dyster's plans include clearing the shoreline of certain vegetation in order to encourage greater use of the park and for roadside views of the Little River, and, with it, the backyards of homes across the Little River; the opposite, mainland shore is heavily developed with residences and boat launching facilities.

However, Mayor Dyster may or may not be aware that growing along the shoreline are rare plants including the endangered Southern Blue Flag.

It now looms large, since the park, with its tall trees and green lawn space, has been maintained for 80 years as a neighborhood park serving primarily the residents of Cayuga Island. There is no paving, no off street parking. No open restrooms. Now that is changing.

Some of the trees are old and of various kinds, such as Sycamore, Red Oak, Cottonwood, Bur Oak, Crack Willow and Sugar Maple. Some of them are dead and need clearing.

But of particular interest for those concerned with rare botany, a marsh - about 400-feet long by 35-to- 40 fee in depth - occupies the center of the north boundary, a plot of surprising botanical diversity compared with the relative weed-filled areas of the shore immediately east and west of the marsh boundaries. Amid this small marshland, among its many marvels of nature, uniquely, is found a beautiful marshland plant, one which exists in only four sites in all of New York State, the Southern Blue Flag which blooms in flowers of gorgeous blue with aromatic and rare fragrance.

While the plant is not endangered in some states, in New York, the Southern Blue Flag has earned the highest ranking for critically imperiled plants, ranked as S1, which means there are five or fewer occurrences statewide.

The Southern Blue Flag is not the only rare plant that grows along the marsh, the last place where it can grow on Cayuga Island.

A view from the marsh across the Little River.

A residential area, bounded on the north by the Little River, into which the Cayuga Creek flows, and on the south by the Niagara River, opposite Grand Island, Cayuga Island is extensively developed with residences, its shorelines modified for erosion control -except for Jayne Park.

The flora of Jayne Park, much like that of Buckhorn Island State Park across the river from Cayuga Island, and Navy Island, Ontario, all contribute to the enrichment and maintenance of the species populations at parks downstream, such as Dufferin Islands and Goat Island.

Early in the last century, municipal and state parks often focused on unusual natural resources within their boundaries to justify the park's location and removal from the private domain. In fact, the historic interest in the flora of the marsh may have contributed to the original reason for Jayne Park's establishment.

Among rare species found in the Jayne Park Marsh include Water Willow, also found at Dufferin islands, the Hairy Hedge nettle and the Clearweed , which is a species listed on the New York State Rare plant Status List of the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

Since this species grows downstream at the base of Goat Island in the spray zone of the Horseshoe Falls, its existence upstream is important in maintaining populations in the state park.

At one time, a rich woods existed on Cayuga island, in addition to the marsh, where Dogtooth Violet, Dutchman's Breeches, Squirrel Corn, and Spice bush grew.

Those are gone.

What remains is a small marsh on the shore. And it is just such a rich shoreline flora, full of native aquatic and emergent vegetation that provides a precious resource to enrich and restore riverine ecosystems both down and upstream on the Niagara River.

Species such as the Water Willow, rare in the Niagara Frontier Region, and which were lost on Goat Island, have the potential to re-establish themselves naturally if upstream vegetation is not destroyed at Jayne Park.

If Mayor Paul Dyster clears the Jayne Park shoreline as part of his plan to convert the park from a neighborhood to a regional park, it is hoped that his consultants and workers take pains to identify and preserve the Southern Blue Flag and other rare species.

According to the New York Heritage program, "Shoreline development, trampling by fishermen, boat traffic through the marshes, and invasive species threaten (the Southern Blue Flag).

"Fishermen and any planned trails should be kept away from the marshes where these occur.

"In New York, Southern Blue Flag is found only on Niagara river islands, though there are historical records from the shore of Lake Ontario and from Long Island."

Care should be taken to preserve the marsh, regardless of how Jayne Park is converted by planners with perhaps hazy knowledge of the botanical treasures that exist there.





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