Jean Bourque Memorial Bird-Blind Planting
Return-a-Gift Pond, Floyd Bennett Field, Gateway National Recreation Area
The design they commissioned introduces islands of native plant species to frame wide, easily-mown pathways to the blind.
Following construction by volunteers in 2015 of the beautiful Jean Bourque Memorial Bird-Blind overlooking Return-a-Gift Pond, Ron Bourque and the members of the Brooklyn Bird Club sought to transform the blind's approach area from a swathe
of weedy turf and gravel atop a former asphalt roadway into healthy, productive, and attractive habitat.
PLANTING AREAS PLAN
The Natural Resource Stewardship Division of Gateway National Recreation Area approved the plans,
and the staff has been instrumental in bringing them to reality. Because of the National Park Service's
protective stance toward natural areas throughout the country, the project had to be undertaken
without disturbing the ground (to remove the underlying asphalt) or adding soil or compost from elsewhere.
The plans were developed for the existing conditions with this in mind.
A few days before the first workday, when most plants had already arrived, the staff found a way
to bring in a backhoe to dig out the underlying asphalt and deliver soil and compost. The plans were changed as much as they could be to relate
to the now deeper and much richer soil.
The selected plants are of regionally native species and of local provenance as required. Species were chosen for value to birds, butterflies, and insect pollinators, and, collectively, to handle
the wide range of conditions of the site. Depending on weather,
the site will vary from somewhat moist to very dry. (Surrounding areas are at slightly lower elevation and relatively moist.) And,
while mostly sunny, it will become more shaded over time.
The plant list includes nine shrub and understory tree species
and eleven herbaceous perennial species. Several are commonly
seen growing in wet areas but are able to tolerate dry conditions
once established. Given the great amount of compost supplied,
the plants are spaced tightly to preclude intrusion of weeds.
Heavy watering and other efforts will be necessary to bring
the soil's high nutrient content down to the lean conditions
the plants prefer.
Eighteen volunteering Brooklyn Bird Club members showed up over three workdays to install the planting. They removed - by hand - a whole dumptruck-full
of the remaining asphalt debris, they spread fifteen cubic yards of soil and compost, they dug hundreds
of holes in rubbly ground, and they planted.
When asked why he came, one volunteer said "For Ron Bourque, of course!"
A band of ten Sea Cadets joined them the third workday.
Gateway staff members took part in official capacities but went beyond them.
INITIAL PLANTING PLAN
The Fall 2017 planting was augmented in 2018.