Garrett Grilli puts together the poles for a mallard hen house with help from Student Conservation Association members Jenine Tobey, left, and Kara Kukovich, in the waters of Moreau Lake Thursday afternoon. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)
MOREAU – A small army of young people is helping make Moreau Lake State Park more habitable for wildlife and more user-friendly for people.
About 25 Student Conservation Association members split up into teams on Thursday to install mallard hen houses and wood duck boxes around the lake, while building new hiking trails in the park’s Warren County area, on the north side of the Hudson River, in Queensbury.
The program, done in partnership with AmeriCorps, gives student interns practical hands-on training they can use to find jobs and make good career choices.
“It’s a great way to get field experience and real life work experience,” said Rebecca Mullins of Saratoga Springs.
The SCA program helped her land a job as a Moreau Lake State Park educator.
Young people will continue their efforts there today and Saturday. It’s one of many projects SCA’s Hudson Valley contingent does throughout the year in the region in cooperation with state parks, the Department of Environmental Conservation and various nonprofit agencies.
The cylindrical mallard hen houses are made of wire mesh and lined inside with hay. Students, wearing long, water-protective gear, waded several feet out in the lake to drive long steel poles into the muddy bottom, and attached nesting boxes to the poles about three feet above the water’s surface.
“Now the hope is that we’ll have a nesting pair in there for next year,” SCA program director Kathy Schmidt said. “This year’s nesting season (April) is already over.”
With the new boxes in place, the park might initiate a nest monitoring program next April, said Ben Snyder, an SCA intern at the park.t;
The boxes are designed to protect against land predators that steal eggs or young ducklings. Eggs laid in a box, over the water, have an 80 percent survival rate versus 1 to 23 percent for nests on land.
Workers also installed a handful of wood duck boxes in a wetland area at the north end of the lake. One has a Plexiglas backing that allows people to see inside.
Park naturalists Gary Hill and Dave Matteson, both of South Glens Falls, lead hikes to this site and different parts of the park throughout the year.
Previously, Moreau Lake State Park was composed of land primarily around the lake. About a decade ago, more than 2,000 acres were added, including 14 miles of Hudson River shoreline in Saratoga and Warren counties.
Since then, workers have built miles of new hiking trails, mostly on the Saratoga County side of the river. This week’s effort is making the Warren County section more accessible, too.
In addition to field work, SCA members do a great deal of environmental education and outreach. The program trains and develops today’s young people to be the conservation leaders of tomorrow.
Students are given both a living and housing allowance.
For information, call
(845) 255-4758 or go to www.theSCA.org
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