It is only one acre. But protecting the Bird property along the tidal portion of Blind Brook in Rye will help to ensure the protection of one of Long Island Sound’s inaugural Stewardship areas, the Edith Read-Marshlands Stewardship Area in Rye. Protection of the Bird property was one of the priorities highlighted by a LISS-funded stewardship stakeholder group, coordinated by Audubon New York, for the Stewardship Area.
In its support and advocacy of the environmental qualities of the project, the stakeholder group noted that the site’s location along the Blind Brook provides protection downstream to the tidal wetlands at Milton Harbor and the Marshlands Conservancy, the largest salt marsh preserve in Westchester. The brook’s vegetated buffer filters polluted runoff and collects stormwater to reduce flooding on Milton Road. In addition, at low tide, herons from as far away as Captains Island in Greenwich take advantage of the Bird property’s mudflats and salt marsh to feed on fish, worms, insects, and other animals.
Jeff Main, a senior curator at Westchester County Parks, Recreation, and Conservation, and a member of the stakeholder group, said that the acquisition also will provide unique opportunities for appreciation of the stewardship site. For instance, Westchester County proposes to provide an access point for kayaks and canoes, which will be part of the Westchester County blueway trail to link with other destinations along Long Island Sound and its tributaries.
“My personal feeling about the Stewardship Initiative is if people have an intimate experience with the Sound they will be more apt to want to protect it,” said Main. “What better way than to get into a kayak and get onto the Sound. I don’t think you can get any closer to the environment than to get into the water and really get a feel for it.”
The property has been in the Bouton-Bird-Erikson family since 1852. Several scientists lived in the house, including Roland Bird, a pioneering paleontologist with the American Museum of Natural History. Part of the Committee to Save the Bird Homestead’s preservation plan is to restore the farmhouse and natural meadow as an education center with interpretive exhibits on how the setting inspired the family’s devotion to scientific exploration.
The property, which is adjacent to city-owned, waterfront open space at the Rye Meeting House, is being acquired by the City of Rye, in partnership with the non-profit Committee to Save the Bird Homestead, Inc., to be set aside as a natural area, and as a center for science, historic preservation, and ecology. Partners and allies in the project include the City of Rye, the Committee to Save the Bird Homestead, the Westchester Land Trust, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, NYSDEC, New York State OPRHP, Westchester County, Audubon New York, and the stewardship stakeholder group. LISS is contributing $200,000, through a partnership with NYSDEC, to the pending $1.25 million acquisition.