Saturday, March 24, 2012

"This is supposed to be a beautiful county"

Today, I met with our newest volunteer Lake Stewards, Marist College students Nicole Koenigsmann and Craig Corbeels, for the first scheduled cleanup at Morgan Lake Park. Wearing blue nitrile gloves on our hands, we each carried 30 gallon black trash bags around the park. We started in the partially fenced in area across from the permanent restroom building in the Rail Trail parking lot. There I found over 15 cigarette butts on the ground surrounding one of the park benches. In the clearing down below from the partially fenced in area, we found several empty plastic and glass bottles. The entire time we were in the clearing, the Mute swans were carefully watching us since their nest is nearby. A couple walking their dog said "Hello" to all of us when they passed through the clearing to stop and look out at the lake.

Next we decided to head to the other side of the lake where the pier is by following along its edge. In the reeds Nicole found a Skip-It, which had to have been there for a very long time since the last time I saw a Skip-It was in the early 2000s. Craig later found a traffic cone sticking out of the lake that had lost its familiar orange color; a sign that it, too, had been in the lake for a long time. 

An older man was fishing near the unpaved parking area for Morgan Lake off of Creek Rd. Shortly after he left, a man that was walking up the hill from Little George Street waved to us and asked if we were getting ready for the fishing derby (the annual Get Hooked on Fishing Event organized by Ken and Cheryl Rose). He then asked us if we knew of any organizations in the area that were looking for helping hands to clean up litter and we told him, "Yes! Our organization is looking for help!" Regrettably, I did not have one of the business cards I made in my pocket, but I told him I would leave a few at the Colonial Manor Apartments Leasing Office since he said he lived in that neighborhood. The man told us that he used to live in Putnam County and had worked for a roadside cleanup crew and that he enjoyed the job because it made him feel good to have helped clean the town he called home. He also said that he knew his work was valued by others in the community. Before walking back home, he said, "This is supposed to be a beautiful county." I replied, "You're right it is and if we all work hard to clean up, it will be."


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's official - Morgan Lake has been adopted!

On Wednesday, March 14th I met with Mayor John Tkazyik, former 5th Ward Councilwoman Yvonne Flowers, and City Administrator Michael Long at City Hall to discuss my efforts to improve the existing conditions at Morgan Lake Park. At the start of the meeting, I distributed copies of the short report I prepared,  which included a timeline of my research on the history of the lake, as well as my proposal to create volunteer opportunities at the park for community members and local students to practice environmental stewardship. Mike Cerasaro, a good friend studying Natural Resources Management and Policy at Paul Smith's College, suggested the title "Lake Steward" for the proposed volunteer position during a phone conversation we had prior to the meeting. The Mayor, City Administrator, and former Councilwoman were extremely receptive to my proposals and encouraged me to continue my research on Morgan Lake. I left City Hall that day with my head held high and with a copy of a 1896 map of College Hill that depicts the ice house at Morgan Lake given to me by the City Administrator.

Now that I have entered a partnership with the City of Poughkeepsie through the Adopt-A-Parks Program, I am now officially a Morgan Lake Park Lake Steward. By adopting the lake, I have agreed to take responsibility for keeping Morgan Lake Park clean. The Adopt-A-Park Program is sponsored by the Department of Public Works. The DPW will provide me, and any other volunteer Lake Stewards, with trash bags, gloves, reflective vests, hard hats, and anything else needed to properly and safely clean the park. So look forward to seeing Lake Stewards wearing borrowed reflective vests and hard hats picking up trash around the perimeter of Morgan Lake soon! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Board of Public Works 1946 Map of Poughkeepsie

This Board of Public Works 1946 map of the City of Poughkeepsie, NY and Suburbs shows where the property line ends for College Hill Park around Morgan Lake. New Haven's Maybrook Line, the white and black line on the map, once passed through Morgan Lake. Today, the railroad trestle still lies over the northernmost part of Morgan Lake. However, the connection between what we know as Morgan Lake and body of water on the other side of the trestle that extends to Pendell Rd has dramatically receded.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Parks & Recreation

Around 4pm on Wednesday March 7 the sun was still shining and it was warm enough to leave the winter coat at home. My plan to clean up Morgan Lake with an old friend, and fellow Morgan Lake Friend/volunteer Lake Steward, Ashley Pastor, at 3:30pm was rescheduled to occur at 10am the next morning however, I still wanted to take advantage of the weather and get out to the lake. When I arrived there were about 7 cars in the parking lot. Two men were sitting at one of the picnic tables down by the lake shore. I passed by them and overheard one man say to the other, "The manifestations of God are visible" as he looked at his surroundings. Overhearing this spiritual comment at Morgan Lake Park gave me insight to what some of the park visitors contemplate while sitting at the picnic tables. Another man wearing sunglasses held a small plastic shopping bag full of cheese doodles that he attempted to feed to the Mute swans, Mallard ducks and Canada geese. As he tossed the snacks into the lake he shouted to the birds, "Come on! Eat!" The birds were disinterested, but I had fun watching them snub the bright orange, artificially flavored corn puffs. Later on, two boys arrived at the Morgan Lake Trailhead rest area from the Rail Trail on skateboard. Carrying their boards they walked across the lawn in front of the parking lot to the paved path and skated down to the lake. After looking at the water for a moment they picked up their boards again and started to walk through the small trails that exist along the lake; the starting point being the clearing where one picnic table is surrounded by trees on three sides. It was great to see people of all ages visiting the Park and creating their own recreation on Wednesday.            

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"The cultivated must not be forgotten..."

Earlier today I received great news. I will be meeting with Mayor John Tkazyik and Yvonne Flowers next Wednesday March 14th to discuss the ongoing Morgan Lake project, which I have been putting the majority of my energy into these days. This will be another true milestone and will help to bring this project up to the next level of advancement and achievement.

In preparation for my meeting, I am compiling a sample park development plan. Nearby Peach Hill Park's development plan is available to download from the Town of Poughkeepsie Recreation website. Following its format I have adopted some of the topic headers from this plan, i.e., "Introduction," "Vision Statement," "Existing Conditions" and will give credit where due.

When thinking about the existing conditions of Morgan Lake, I thought of an excellent resource to consult: the anthology A Hudson Valley Reader: Writings from the 17th Century to the Present, edited and introduced by Bonnie Marranca. This was the main "textbook" for a course I took as a sophomore in college titled Literature of the Hudson River Valley with Dr. Beth Kolp at SUNY Dutchess Community College. Beginning on page 373 is the essay "American Scenery," by Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole. In his essay Cole describes the aesthetic qualities of the picturesque landscape, which the Mid-Hudson Valley in particular is nationally and internationally known for. Cole writes:

"In what has been said, I have in general alluded to the wild and uncultivated scenery; but the cultivated must not be forgotten, for it is still more important to man in his social capacity; it encompasses our homes, and though devoid of the stern sublimity of the wild, its quieter spirit steals tenderly into our bosoms, mingled with a thousand domestic affections and heart-touching associations human hands have wrought and human deeds hallowed all around. And it is here that taste, which is the perception if the beautiful and the knowledge of the principles on which nature works, can be applied and our dwelling places made fitting for refined and intellectual beings."
Morgan Lake is man-made; therefore it is certainly classified as cultivated scenery that offers picturesque landscape views. This unique feature should be honored and preserved.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Social Networking as a Lake

Around 6:30pm I made the official Twitter account for Morgan Lake Park (@MorganLakePark). After having been activated for less than 1 hour, Dutchess County Tourism tweeted about Morgan Lake encouraging all followers to become a Lake Steward to improve the historic lake. This was a milestone for the Morgan Lake project. A single tweet has informed several social media users that there is a slowly growing grassroots movement to create change at a local city park.

Of course in addition to creating accounts on social networking sites including, Twitter, Facebook, Flikr, and YouTube, I have also hung the "old fashioned" flyer calling all Dutchess County community members to send an email to if they remember the Morgan Lake Amusement Park that opened in 1955. The park was only open for roughly one year. This fact has lead many people to tilt their head to the side and say "there was really an amusement park there?" when I ask them if they ever heard about it. We'll see if the flyer generates any feedback! Copies are hanging at Stewart's Shops on Creek Road, Poughkeepsie, on various bulletin boards at Dutchess Community College, on the cork board at The Crafted Kup on Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie and in the window at: Darkside Records & Gallery on Main Street, Poughkeepsie, All Shook Up Cafe on Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, and The Three Arts bookstore on Collegeview Avenue, Poughkeepsie. You can even find poorly cut green business cards that read, "Attention Anglers, Wildlife Photographers, and Rail Trail users: join the volunteer effort to improve Morgan Lake" at the Acropolis Diner on Main Street, Poughkeepsie. Thank you again to all of the business owners willing to support my public history project.           

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Morgan Lake Boaters, circa 1910s

This photograph of boaters on Morgan Lake, according to a note made on the back, was given as a gift to the Adriance Memorial Library by a Dr. Davis on October 22, 1951. Although the exact date that the photograph was taken is not recorded on the photograph itself, I was able to date the photograph circa 1910s. To determine this, I closely examined the clothing worn by the men and women in the larger row boat. The man in the center is wearing a stiff bowler hat and the man seated on the stern is wearing a flat straw boater. The three men that are visible in the larger boat are all wearing waistcoats (or vests). I then watched Poughkeepsie Moving Pictures, a VHS tape presented by the Dutchess County Historical Society of a segment of film recorded in 1913 that was found in a barn in Pawling, NY in the 1970s. The men in this film from 1913 are wearing the same hat styles as the ones worn in the above picture, which leads me to believe that the photograph was taken circa 1910s.

Examining the men's and women's fashions in this photograph also provided me with insight on which socio-economic classes used Morgan Lake for recreation. The two men in the small wooden row boat are wearing  jackets rather than waistcoats and collared white shirts. Their hats are "floppy;" neither stiff like the bowler nor flat like the straw boater. Also, they are fishing and rowing across the lake, while the well-dressed boaters appear to be drifting through the water at a relaxing pace. Based on their dress and activity, the men fishing may have belonged to the working class or lower middle class while the men, women and children in the larger row boat were likely to be members of the middle or upper middle class.

Visible in the background is the Morgan Lake Ice Company ice house. George Morgan began the ice business and was involved in it prior to his death on September 21, 1879. His sister, Julia A. Morgan was the immediate predecessor.