Have you ever stood at the Village Beach and wondered what is that green stuff that is slowly taking over the Cove?  Or have you ever stepped on a hard, spiny black seed and wondered where it came from? The plant is European water chestnut (Trapa natans) an aggressive, invasive plant (not to be confused with the Chinese water chestnut you find in soups) that has gradually taken over the Cove across from the Saugerties Village beach.

This aquatic plant was inadvertently released into waters of the Northeast in the late 1800s.  It has slowly, but inexorably, spread throughout New York State, clogging waterways (including our own Hudson River) and ponds.  What’s more, water chestnut mats stifle the growth of native aquatic plants and fish beneath its thick canopy by reducing oxygen and potentially leading to fish kills.

In past years, many stalwart souls have paddled out to the weeds and pulled and pulled for hours and hours only to find that after several hours of many people pulling and carting them to the beach, hardly a dent was made.  And then there was the hope that the famed "Harvester" from Port Ewen would grace our shores with its magic and our problem would be solved.  Sadly, that never really happened.

This summer Esopus Creek Conservancy and very concerned citizens are taking on the challenge of ridding the Cove of this plant.  Volunteers have begun to study the plant and plot the best means to begin to take on its eradication from the cove.  They have also explored various methods and tools that have been invented and tried.  Village resident Willy Neumann came forward with a seven-foot saw to be used by two people with a back and forward motion.  The saw didn't exactly work, but Willy’s enthusiasm inspired a friend, Chris Nealon, to go on-line to find out how others have dealt with the problem of invasive weeds in water bodies.  What he found was the Lake Mower, a promising mechanical battery-powered weed cutter that attached to the side of a jon-boat propelled by a 5-horse power mower.

After lots of meetings and much discussion and conversations with others who have used the Lake Mower on Water Chestnuts in other areas, ECC decided to purchase the Lake Mower on a trial basis.  We think it's the best solution yet to eliminating Water Chestnuts from the cove.  It's not too big and not too small for our shallow cove and not as expensive as renting the Harvester from Port Ewen.  For more information visit LakeMower.com.  The Lake Mower will cut the plants, many hands in many kayaks, canoes, rowboats, motor boats and pontoons will be needed to pick up the plants and carry them to the beach.  We are also in need of the loan or donation of a 5 horsepower motor. The Village of Saugerties has kindly agreed to cart the weeds away for composting.

This is very much a work in progress.  We're learning as we go.  We are hoping to begin on the weekend of July 7th and 8th if we have everything we need in place.  You can stay informed through your local papers, also at EsopusCreekConservancy.org, by visiting Esopus Creek Conservancy's Facebook page or calling us at 845 247-0664. We need your help!  You can join this effort by coming to the Village beach on weekends in July to help or by sending a contribution to Esopus Creek Conservancy, Water Chestnut Eradication Fund, P.O. Box 589, Saugerties, NY 12477. Look for us in the Saugerties July 4th parade!