The aquatic plant known as water chestnut (trapa natans) showed its invasive potential last summer at many points along the Connecticut River and its tributaries. In our own Floating Meadows, the freshwater, tidal marshland formed where the lower Coginchaug and Mattabesset Rivers converge, the presence of these plants was first recorded in 2009. The Jonah Center has been monitoring the area closely since 2013, pulling out a few plants each year through 2015.
The summer of 2016 was different! Water chestnut proliferated as we have never seen before, forming expansive, dense patches at multiple locations. Left unchecked, these plants can choke off sunlight and oxygen, threatening native plants, fish, fish-eating birds and other aquatic species. Some waterways, including local ones, have become impassible by water chestnut infestations.
For the coming season, paddles are planned for Saturday, June 10 at 1 p.m.; Saturday, June 24 at 1 p.m.; and Saturday, July 8 at 1 p.m. (If no water chestnut plants are found, the outing will become a recreational, nature-observing paddle.) Canoes and kayaks will start and finish at the launch site at 181 Johnson Street, adjacent to Middletown’s recycling center. For each of these outings, we need many volunteers, including those with access to motorboats. Here’s why.
In 2016, the Jonah Center and its partners removed approximately 48 canoes full in the course of 8 separate work parties. On the most productive of those outings, we had 2 motor boats assisting a large fleet of 14 canoes and about 20 kayaks. The motorboats (1 pontoon boat and 1 skiff) allowed us to remove, in a single afternoon, 30 of the total of 48 canoes full for the season. Needless to say, the motorboats helped a lot!
Removing water chestnut plants is a fun and gratifying activity. How often can you do something so specific and visible to help the environment? Many new friendships are made while the work is underway. In addition to motorboats, we need canoeists, kayakers, and some people to serve as crew in the motorboats and to assist on land with unloading.
If you can help, please contact the Jonah Center from our website here or subscribe to the Jonah Center Email Newsletter here (look for the sign-up form on the upper left side of the page), or call 860-398-3771. The Newsletter will give updates on our plans as the dates approach. We thank our partners, the Connecticut River Conservancy and the Rockfall Foundation, for providing bags, gloves, and other assistance. You may donate in support of the Jonah Center via credit card from our home page, to cover organization and insurance costs. Your contributions and volunteer help are important and much appreciated.