Mudflats or Lake at Pryer Manor Marsh?
Can one Project Satisfy Nature & Neighbors?
by Judy Silberstein
(June 5, 2003) First the tall phragmite reeds disappeared
in the winter. Then trenches and pipes and machinery appeared.
happening to the small marsh on Pryer Manor Road?
It’s all part of an effort to restore the salt-water
marsh and return native grasses and plants to the area, explained
Town Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner, who wrote two grants in
the late 90’s to support the project. NY State is kicking
in $244,5000 and there’s an additional $109,370 coming
from the Town of Mamaroneck and the Pryer Manor Marsh Preservation
Association, a local conservancy group.
Before there were settlers, and suburbs and asphalt, there
were acres of salt-water marshland in the area now known
as Pryer Manor. More recently, underground pipes leading
from the nearby Premium River allowed brackish waters to
ebb and flow through the marsh that remained after land was
drained for houses and roads. However, the pipes have clogged
and collapsed, the marsh has filled with fresh water, and
invasive, non-native phragmites have crowded out the original
diversity of vegetation.
“I was interested in restoring salt water to the marsh,”
explained Wittner, “Because it would bring in the small
fish and other small invertebrates at the bottom of the food
chain. The fish attract other wildlife. That will bring in
a diversity of birds rather than just the ducks and herons
there now. You’ll see the songbirds come back.”
The first grant will accomplish this goal.
The second grant is to support revitalizing the perimeter
of the marsh by planting native shrubs typical of an upland
tidal marsh. “It’s these shrubs that are the
food source and the nesting place and the resting place for
song birds,” she said.
Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner points out the features of the upland tidal marsh being restored off Preyer Manor Road.
There will be orioles, warblers, and
redwing blackbirds like those at the far end of Pryer
Manor Road at the site
of an earlier conservation project.
purchased with a federal grant and located with the assistance
of Joanne Grossman from Larchmont Nurseries, have attracted
diversity of songbirds.
“It’s really restoring nature to what it was
before man interfered with the natural progression,” she
said as she conducted a marsh tour for the Gazette.
A striking redwing blackbird showed
its approval of the project by flitting in and out of the
marsh. But how about
the humans – those strolling, power-walking and jogging
by, and those whose homes look down on what used to be a
large “lake” of open water?
“The walkers – those in the neighborhood and
those in Larchmont and Mamaroneck who stroll by love it,” said
Wittner. Before the phragmites were removed, all the walkers
would have seen were reeds, weeds and, often, illegally dumped
trash and tires. Wittner hopes the dumping will stop once
people see how beautiful it is.
However the neighbors on Dogwood Lane have been upset to
find how little water remains in the marsh at various tides.
This is by design. “It’s a tidal marsh and the
water level is supposed to fluctuate,” she explained.
“But it looks like a mud flat except at very high
tides,” said Andrew Dyson, President of the Pryor Manor
Association, which covers the New Rochelle area from “Red
Bridge (now painted white) to Dillon Road. “We want
it to be nice, to enhance the area, and we believe it can
be better than it was,” he said.
“The lake is lovely. I love the lake – the egrets
love the lake,” stressed Jack Quinlan, whose multi-level
Mediterranean-style home is perched high on rocks overlooking
the marsh. But Councilwoman Wittner was concerned about the
high water level in evidence on the tour. The marsh "lake"
was not far from the low-lying road with its
One of the important functions of the marsh is to absorb
rainfall. “It works like a huge sponge,” she
pointed out. An already soggy sponge would be unable to mop
up excess water in a heavy rainfall.
Town of Mamaroneck Administrator Steve Altieri has been
meeting with the neighbors and working with the valves letting
water in and out of the marsh to find a water level that
satisfies both ecological and esthetic concerns. “We
don’t want it to be too low and expose the bottom of
the marsh,” he said. “But we prefer for the water
to be well below the level of the road – particularly
at lunar high tides. We don’t want to tempt fate.”
Sorting out issues has required cooperation between the
Town of Mamaroneck, City of New Rochelle,
and the various neighborhood associations. This sort of cooperation
has been a hallmark – and a necessity – for planning
and implementing projects along Pryer Manor Road where properties
on one side of the road are in New Rochelle and those on
the other are in Town of Mamaroneck, and residents drive
through the Village of Larchmont on their way home.
“Over the years, as we do more and more things together,
I think we build up trust in each other,” pointed out