Cove Island (Stamford) - 2009

Master Gardeners at Stamford's Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary

By Sue Sweeney

Cove Island vols

Pictured above: Bartlett 2009 MG Interns (including, left to right, Norma Collier, Sally O'Brien, Cathy Lynch and Beth Miller) prepare to tackle the invasives at Cove Island Park.

In 2006, after years of planning, a former brush dump in the southwest corner of the Stamford's Cove Island Park was transformed by the City of Stamford into an 11-acre wildlife sanctuary. The initial restoration of the 5-acre native plant meadow at the center of the site was done by the City of Stamford via a State grant in honor of former Speaker of the State House of Representatives Moira Lyons, a Stamford resident. Since then, Master Gardeners have been actively involved in nurturing the meadow, adding an all-native butterfly garden, and slowly reclaiming the rest of site from an impressive array of entrenched invasive species. The horticulture team is lead by the Sanctuary's Head Steward, Master Gardener Dave Winston, with assistance from Master Gardener Sue Sweeney.

Each year, the Stewards are assisted by Master Gardener Interns doing their MGP outreach work (and then some!), and a growing number of Master Gardeners who have become long-term volunteers. The summer-fall program has evolved into a teaching lab on environmental restoration; the winter-spring program focuses on evolving the butterfly garden.

According to Dave Winston: "It's amazing how far we've come in this short time. We never could have done it without the help of the Bartlett Master Gardeners. So far, this summer, we have declared victory over garlic mustard, fought hard against the encroaching Artemisia, successfully launched the first segment of the butterfly garden, and installed deer guards to protect some of our most vulnerable woody plants from the exploding white tail deer population. We were all overjoyed last week to see monarch butterfly larvae on the swamp milkweed."

Meanwhile, the Interns are learning "hands on" how to recognize the local native, naturalized and invasives plants, and how to control undesirable plants while minimizing soil disturbance, disruption of habitat, and herbicide use. In addition, most Interns have taken on a research project to add to the Sanctuary's knowledge base. Sue Sweeney's view: "We couldn't be more delighted with the assistance that we're getting."

The Interns' view:

Melanie Wyler: "If anyone wants proof about the connection between habitat and wildlife, one only has to visit the meadow at Cove Island. The happy, near-deafening clatter of noise from millions of bees, dragonflies, butterflies, many bird species and other insects shows the unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife and insects, and the true meaning of biodiversity."

Beth Miller: "Dave Winston and Sue Sweeney have been incredibly generous in sharing both their time and their knowledge, and have been very patient teachers. Our time at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary has been very well spent."