By: Sam Beck-Andersen, Watercraft Steward Program Manager
With a constant stream of boaters coming to the Honeoye Lake State Marine Park, the Finger Lake Institute’s (FLI) Watercraft Steward Program, along with other regional steward efforts remains an important mainstay in managing the spread of invasive species in Honeoye and other regional waterbodies. During the summer of 2018 there were two different groups operating watercraft steward coverage on Honeoye Lake, exclusively at the Honeoye Lake State Marine Park. From the end of May until mid-August, a Finger Lakes Institute steward covered the launch Monday through Thursday for eight to ten hours per day, while the two NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) stewards covered the launch Thursday through Sunday for around 10 hours per day. From mid-August to the end of October, a Finger Lakes Institute steward covered the Honeoye launch Friday through Sunday for eight to ten hours per day.
I like to look at the role of watercraft stewards from a couple of different angles. First, the stewards provide physical presence at a boat launch. Their friendly faces and good attitudes make them perfect to educate the boating communities utilizing Honeoye Lake about the dangers of spreading Aquatic Invasive Species among waterbodies. This physical presence acts as a first line of defense, actively ensuring watercraft entering or leaving the lake are free from harmful invasive species. Just this past year, a FLI steward named Jason Hanselman stopped a boat with the invasive Quagga mussel as it was getting ready to launch at the Honeoye Lake State Marine Park. This instance illustrates the role of a steward perfectly. Jason followed protocol by inspecting the incoming vessel, and his thorough process resulted in halting this known invasive species from entering Honeoye Lake.
Watercraft stewards are also tasked with collecting a huge amount of data through inspecting boats at public launches. In 2018 alone, over the course of 106 days of coverage, the FLI and OPRHP Stewards inspected and collected data for over 3,800 watercrafts at the Honeoye Lake State Marine Park On average, stewards inspected around 36 boats per day, with the busiest being June 16th, with 126 boats inspected throughout the day! Stewards collect data on a number of variables including date and time, watercraft type, user group, what was found during physical inspection of a watercraft, and where that boat was used before bringing it to the current launch. Through the use of tools like ArcGIS Online, Survery123, and R Studio, our manager and seasonal coordinators are able to conduct detailed and comprehensive analysis on large datasets, producing replicable reports for internal use and formal reporting purposes alike. Without consistent and efficient data collection methods as well as a base of talented and motivated stewards at a launch, this type of informed program management would not be possible.
Identifying the most common watercraft types used at a launch can help managers and stewards in strategizing outreach techniques. Figure 1 shows the composition of watercraft types inspected at the Honeoye launch. A launch with primarily Motorboats and personal watercraft (PWCs) will differ in many ways from those serving a high proportion of canoes and kayaks. Inspection times can be increased, group sizes can be larger, and the user type can differ. Knowing about these differences allows managers to strategize outreach and educational strategies deployed at different sites. As with most NY State launches, this site has a very high proportion of motorboats due to the predominant angler user group and also the availability of other free launches on Honeoye Lake for canoe and kayak users.
Identifying common user groups for a launch is also key to formulating outreach and education strategies. Depending on who is using a boat launch, managers may choose to equip stewards with certain handouts and educational materials that are pertinent to a certain group. Figure 2 shows that Honeoye Lake has a high proportion of anglers compared to general recreation or commercial users. In this instance, we may urge our stewards to connect with users by asking about an angler’s daily catch. Or, we may stock our stewards with regional angling guides to offer launch users. No matter the strategy, one of our main objectives is to effectively communicate the goal of AIS prevention to as many individuals as possible. For comparison, Figure 3 shows user group data for Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park, one of the busiest public launches in the state. In contrast to Honeoye, the majority of users of Canandaigua Lake are from the general recreation category. Given this information, we are able to point out key strategies for connecting with users to stewards at the respective launches.
Figure 4 outlines organisms that were found during steward inspections. The top figure displays inspections by FLI stewards, and the bottom figure displays OPRHP steward inspections. As with many other launches around the Finger Lakes, the top three species found at the Honeoye Lake State Marine Park are consistent: native species, curly-leaf pondweed, and Eurasian watermilfoil.
Figure 5 outlines the most common waterbodies previously visited by watercrafts and users launching at the Honeoye Lake State Marine Park. Examining where boaters are coming from helps managers to evaluate the potential threats facing certain lakes by identifying the most likely sources of contamination. Typically the most common last waterbody visited by launching boats is the destination waterbody, which is also true for Honeoye Lake State Marine Park. Also typical for this variable is First Launched, meaning that the watercraft has not been launched for two weeks, and does not pose a major risk for spreading invasive species since any attached organisms typically die after spending two weeks out of water. In this figure, the “NA” category for the Parks steward data results from no source waterbody being identified.
For more information about the Finger Lakes Institute’s Watercraft Steward Program, please visit flisteward.com. We are always recruiting for new stewards all around the Finger Lakes Region. Part-time or full-time college students, high school and college graduates, and retired persons are all encouraged to inquire about opportunities for the 2019 season. To inquire please email firstname.lastname@example.org