Last updated: July 27, 2016
Restoring History at Farm Lane
July 27, 2016
Between the historic home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the humble cottage of his wife Eleanor, is a historical trail connecting the two national historic sites. The trail is known as Farm Lane and is used as a pedestrian and bicycle pathway for visitors to travel from one site to the other. The 334 acres of woodland landscape was once a part of the 1,500 acres that the Roosevelt's owned and is now home to a diverse habitat for many kinds of wildlife.
When FDR was a boy, he planted some of the first trees in his lifetime at Farm Lane, in fact, over 5,000 trees. After being acquired by the Scenic Hudson Land Trust Inc. in 2001, the land was transferred to the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in 2007. Because of the area's historical significance, the National Park Service has made it their mission to rehabilitate the area for all the wildlife who call it home.
There is one main trail through the property, which connects to three other trails that are open to the public. The park's Trail Management Plan calls for establishing additional trails, but wildlife surveys are necessary to help evaluate where trail development can occur while avoiding resource impacts. That is where Samantha Dean comes in, a Master's degree student from the State University of NY (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. Dean has been working for the past two summers on a reptile and amphibian survey through a cooperative agreement between NPS and SUNY.
Photo by Cassie Kelly - Samantha Dean is a Master's degree student surveying reptiles and amphibians at Farm Lane.
Dean is currently working on her MS thesis, which investigates how trails and habitat differences affect where reptiles and amphibians are found. Her research will help NPS to manage the Farm Lane property in a way that strikes a good balance between the needs of the park, and the reptiles and amphibians that live in Farm Lane.
"It has been really great working with this park on this survey," she said. "FDR was very pro-conservation, which makes the work we're doing more meaningful."
What Dean and others really hoped to find were Blanding's Turtles ( Emydoidea blandingii ). After the last one on record in the park was spotted in 2003, it seemed the NY state threatened species might have left the area altogether. Dean spent many hours wading through wetlands, flipping logs, and overturning everything in sight to record all of the different species she found.
She discovered 5,246 individuals of 20 different species, including frogs, salamanders, snakes, and turtles. She was excited to find Marbled Salamanders ( Ambystoma opacum ) and Eastern Box Turtles ( Terrapene carolina ), both species of special concern by New York State. But unfortunately, no Blanding's Turtles.
Photo by Samantha Dean - Marbled Salamanders ( Ambystoma opacum ) are a species of special concern by New York State.
"It could be for any number of reasons; it was heavily used by bikers and ATVs before NPS acquired it, and that might have caused a lot of habitat disturbance," said Dean. "Female Blanding's Turtles are known to travel over a mile to find good nesting sites. They'll cross busy roads, putting themselves in danger."
For Dean, rehabilitating Farm Lane is all about coexistence with other species. "Research has shown that experiencing nature does a lot of good for us psychologically. That means we have to protect the environment not just for our own good, but for the species that live there as well."
Photo by Samantha Dean - Red-Backed Salamander
You can hike Farm Lane on your own, or if you would like a tour there is a special ranger-guided tram tour given only on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. where you can learn about FDR's tree plantations and the land's connection to New Deal programs.
Check back in next week for an artist's story about her experience painting the Vanderbilt Mansion and other sites and a special gallery show happening right here in Hyde Park.