2020 ANNUAL REPORT
FRIENDS OF READ WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

We are so thankful for and honored by your heightened presence at Edith Read Sanctuary this year. The pandemic brought us many new friends and supporters, and we were blessed to be able to offer a place of sanctuary to all. In spite of the disruptions, we are pleased to report on the positive and productive aspects of the 2020.

We were not able to congregate for this year’s annual meeting scheduled to mark the end of our fiscal year, October 31, 2020, but hope to re-schedule in the Spring of 2021. Below are the officer and curator reports which would have been presented at that meeting.

OCTOBER 24, 2020

President Jana B. Seitz’s report:

I am pleased to report the near completion of our new boardwalk and viewing platform! It is ADA compliant (built to accommodate wheelchairs), has an increased path to and view of the Long Island Sound and should outlast storms for many years to come.

We are honored and humbled by our increased membership (nearly 2600!) and want you to know your membership dollars will be well spent on beautifying and fortifying the sanctuary.

We installed a new bike rack at our back entrance on Manursing Way to encourage “through walkers” to enjoy the sanctuary on foot.

We cleared the back fence line adjacent to the South Manursing Island neighborhood, removing dead and potentially dangerous trees and limbs, most of which had been damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

We are co-sponsoring a “SEEK SANCTUARY” community art contest with The Rye Arts Center and Westchester Children’s Museum to celebrate our cautious return from pandemic life and our joy of natural spaces within Rye. Please see our website for complete rules. Deadline for submissions is Friday, October 30.

Our beloved FALL FEST had to take a rest this year due to Covid, but we hope to be back in 2021!

We made notecards of the winners and runners-up from our 2019 photography contest. They come in a set of 12, which includes all 6 winning photos and makes a lovely gift. Available for purchase on our website, friendsofreadwildlifesanctuary.org. We also have T-shirts and ball caps available for all. Email us friendsofreadws@gmail.com for more details.

We have room for 4 more board members for a total of 15. Terms are three years. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each monthly at 7pm. All Friends members are invited to attend. Please feel free to self-nominate by emailing Jana Seitz at president@friendsofreadwildlifesanctuary.org.

I am mostly grateful for the addition of Kassandra Souply to our team without whom we would (still be) lost. She handles everything from Aphids to Zealots with skill and grace.

 

Vice President Cynthia Howard’s report:

FY 2020 saw 2,553 ACTIVE members of which:

  • 721 were mailed in & 1833 joined online with PayPal
  • Nearly half of these members are new Friends members
  • 1,527 members joined after March 15 (when shutdown began)

MEMBERSHIP FINANCIALS – FY 2020 (10/1/19 to 9/30/20):

  • Total membership income recorded in database = $76,720

PAYPAL DATA – FY 2020 (10/1/19 to 9/30/20)*:
*Note, this data is for ALL PayPal transactions which includes membership, notecards sales, and donations.

  • PayPal income = $59,812 (up 68% from 2019)
  • # of PayPal transactions = 1,905

 

Treasurer Michael Kaufman’s report:

I am pleased to report that in FY 2020 the Friends of Read Wildlife Sanctuary registered nearly 2,600 paid members. Our mailing list is even longer. Each year we have gained an increasing number of members. By comparison, in 2019 we had 1,900 and in 2017 we had under 1,100 paid members. In FY 2020, we collected over $76,000 in memberships, plus more income in donations and investments.

In early November, Westchester County Executive George Latimer will be issuing his proposed 2021 County budget. He has been very supportive of Read Sanctuary and all parks, as has the County Legislature. The Legislature will hold budget hearings later in November. We may call upon the Friends’ membership to support our budget requests with the County Executive and the Legislature by contacting your legislator. Stay tuned.

We are very grateful to the county government this year, giving special THANKS for:

  1. Keeping Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary open and staffed during the pandemic. As a result, thousands of people – more than ever – have visited the sanctuary and found much needed respite.
  2. Contracting with a new vendor to repair and maintain the gate between Manursing Lake and the Long Island Sound.

 

Curator Michael Gambino’s report:

This year has been challenging for sure. Every one of us has had to figure out our own unique way of responding and adjusting to life in a pandemic world reality. Our personal resources for mitigating impacts of and coping with the ever-evolving and stressful conditions vary widely. Yet one constant and very critical support for many people has been access to natural places. The Sanctuary has been a refuge for so many when nearly everything around us was shut down in response to the spread of Covid-19. The Sanctuary is a place to loosen the grip of our fear and anxieties, to walk off stress, breathe fresh air and see our friends and neighbors at a safe distance.

 

In Review:

The nature center building has been closed to the public until further notice. The interior space is too small to safely open to the public without risk of spreading Covid-19 to staff and visitors.

Scheduling of Saturday and special event programming has been on hold until further notice. Currently, we are proposing limited public program offerings for the Fall season to be held outdoors and with reduced attendance. The Westchester County Parks administration is reviewing these proposals. Once approved, we will announce the program schedule to membership.

Habitat management and trail maintenance has continued to the best of our abilities despite the Covid restrictions, unusually high attendance, oppressive heat and humidity during the summer, and greatly reduced staff and volunteer availability.

March through June we saw daily attendance numbers increase by hundreds of visitors over the normal averages, and on weekends the numbers were about 1,500 – 2,000 visitors. Gradually as reopening progressed around the area, the numbers settled back to a more typical level, though still higher than previous years.

Tropical Storm Isaias whipped through the region and left us with a lot of trees and debris to clear from trails, fields, gardens and rooftop.

The new beach access ADA-compliant boardwalk construction project is nearly complete.

Exhibit design work for indoor and outdoor projects has been on hold for most of the year, but we hope to resume work in the coming weeks.

A new memorial bench has been installed and replaces the old lichen encrusted bench near the Osprey nest area.

Another 1,000 weevils were released in July as biological control organisms to help control the spread of Mile-a-Minute-Weed throughout the park. This is the 5th year we have released the weevils.

Moveable boardwalks or puncheons have been built and situated in seasonally wet areas of trail. More to be deployed as needed.

 

Some New Challenges:

The Covid-19 pandemic created unprecedented attendance surge in the sanctuary and nearly every other natural area in Westchester County from March through July. Our membership has increased as well, and more people found our beautiful sanctuary for the first time. Along with this increased usage of our sanctuary came a marked increase in incidents of disobeying park rules like groups of people riding bicycles on our trails and people bringing their dogs into the sanctuary. Also, there has been an increase of trash left behind daily throughout the park, including used PPE. Unapproved herd paths were created by hundreds of feet trampling shortcuts through vegetation in various locations. Graffiti has occurred recently which had not been a problem in the past. We are doing what we can to address these conditions in the sanctuary.

Thankfully, most of the large crowd days are behind us since there are now more location options for people to visit when they need to get out of their homes.

Additionally challenging has been the significant reduction in the amount of time hourly staff have been allocated here by the Parks administration.

Two additional invasive plant species have been added to our list which now totals at least 27 species. They are Cut-leaved Blackberry and Seibold’s Viburnum. We also have the Emerald Ash Borer insect which is in the process of wiping out our ash trees.

 

Volunteers and Donated Services Needed for 2021! Please contact me or the Friends board directly if you can offer any of these or know of anyone who can donate these services:

1) Gardening care – regular care and maintenance of memorial plantings, pollinator garden, native wildflower beds, rain garden and pond areas around the nature center building.

2) Handyman services for a variety of things from fixing door hinges to sharpening chainsaw chains, painting, fixing and organizing tools, and light carpentry projects.

 

Last but not least! My special thanks to all our volunteers throughout the year, especially the Volunteer Corps who are dedicated, frequent volunteers, and hard-working friends. And to the Friends of Read board for their dedication and support of our work here at the sanctuary on many levels. They help us keep the sanctuary the beautiful habitat that it is for wildlife and people to enjoy.

Friends’ Tentative Plans for 2021:

  1. Restoration of the pond adjacent to nature center building
  2. Hire tree company to remove and trim trees throughout the park
  3. Sponsor Fall Fest 2021
  4. Plant trees and shrubs
  5. Install educational signage for trees, plants, and trails
  6. Paint nature center building
  7. Replace additional boardwalks
  8. Add additional educational exhibits in nature center building
  9. Continue with free educational programming for members and guests (when restrictions allow)
  10. Do re-con on the possibility of a kayak launch and racks at the beach

 

Projects we hope Westchester County Parks will consider in 2021:

  1. Replace storm drain filters in Playland parking lot to keep pollutants out of the lake and Sound waters
  2. Continue Curator positions at Read Sanctuary and all nature centers
  3. Fill the additional curator positions that were approved in 2020 budget

 

Again, we are grateful and thankful for your support. Thanks for being a friend.

Sincerely,

Jana B. Seitz