The Restoration of the
Lower Burke Estate

Volunteers Needed!

Our work has only been possible due to the devoted efforts of community volunteers.

If you are interested in joining us, please e-mail us at and say you want to get involved at the Burke!


A small group of volunteers manages the restoration of the lower Burke Estate. They target:

If you are interested in joining in on this work, email us!

Before and After Ongoing Restoration Efforts

full of invasive phragmites and porcelain berry

native grasses and forbs have returned

area inaccessible to people, overlooking invasive phragmites

now a beautiful glade, providing relief on hot days, with a view of the restoration area

Willows full of invasive vines, deadfall, and surrounded by invasive shrubs

Willows now unimpeded and lush

Factory brook flowed through invasive phragmites

Waterway now has free movement with a green buffer, giving wildlife easy access to fresh water

Native grasses, sedges, and rushes filling in the landscape. 

Phragmites manually cleared, 250 native trees and shrubs planted densely (around half typically don't survive their first year)

Early succession flat sedges move in as long-lived native plants establish themselves

Trees and shrubs reach mature densities, later-successional plants begin dominating the landscape. Biodiversity improving every day.

Work so far

Native plantings

Seeds and transplants are continuously introduced (when seasonally appropriate)  in order to build up a seed bank and breeding population of native plants. 

Protected Deer Exclosures

The overpopulated White Tailed Deer selectively feed on native plants, fencing the deer out (exclosures) gives habitat back to our regionally appropriate plants and insects.

Cattail deer exclosure made of reclaimed materials
4'x4' deer exclosures built by HHS AP Environmental Science students

Conservation and Stewardship

As the invasive plants have overtaken the Lower Burke, the existing native ecosystem has suffered. Volunteers steward the land through targeted invasive removal and plant management. 

A group of Hastings High School AP Environmental Studies students prepare a re-planting area.
A grove of native Bebb's Willows (Salix bebbiana) stewarded by volunteers. A Black Oak (Quercus veluntina) in fall colors visible in the background.
A group of 4th grade girls scouts exercising their muscles on invasive plant removal while building teamwork skills 
Tree tubes courtesy of New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). These are necessary to protect young plants from deer.

Path Maintenance

Throughout the year, trails are opened and maintained to enable access by both humans and wildlife.

The Future

What could this place be?

We hope to restore the Burke Estate wetlands to the healthiest ecosystem possible. Every ecological community is home to a unique blend of native species and their interrelationships. By understanding this community we can seek to restore the necessary building blocks that support vibrate stable biodiversity.

The New York Natural Heritage Program is a group which provides comprehensive information on our states ecological communities.

NYNHP classifies the Lower Burke estate as a shallow emergent marsh. Below is the official description of shallow emergent marshes from their publication Ecological Communities of New York State - Second Edition.


Shallow emergent marsh: a marsh meadow community that occurs on mineral soil or deep muck soils (rather than true peat), that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. This marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 15 cm to 1 m (6 in to 3.3 ft) during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid to late summer and the substrate is exposed during an average year. This is a very broadly defined type that includes several distinct variants and many intermediates. Shallow emergent marshes are very common and quite variable. They may be codominated by a mixture of species, or have a single dominant species. It is likely that an individual occurrence of shallow emergent marsh will not include all of the species listed below. 

Most abundant herbaceous plants include cattails (Typha latifolia, T. angustifolia, T. x glauca), sedges (Carex spp.), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), manna grasses (Glyceria pallida, G. canadensis), spikerushes (Eleocharis palustris, E. obtusa), bulrushes (Scirpus cyperinus, S. atrovirens, Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), three- way sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum), sweetflag (Acorus americanus), tall meadow-rue (Thalictrum pubescens), marsh St. John’s-wort (Triadenum virginicum), arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), goldenrods (Solidago rugosa, S. gigantea), spotted joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium maculatum), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), smartweeds (Persicaria amphibia, P. hydropiperoides), marsh bedstraw (Galium palustre), jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), loosestrifes (Lysimachia thyrsiflora, L. terrestris, L. ciliata). Native reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) may occur in low abundance in undisturbed marshes, but frequently becomes abundant in disturbed marshes. Bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) may be common, but it is more characteristic of sedge meadow. Marshes that have been disturbed are frequently invaded by weedy species such as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and European common reed (Phragmites australis). These areas are better classified as purple loosestrife marsh and common reed marsh respectively. 

Sedges (Carex spp.) may be abundant in shallow emergent marshes, but are not usually dominant. Marshes must have less than 50% cover of peat and tussock-forming sedges, such as tussock sedge (Carex stricta); otherwise it may be classified as a sedge meadow. Characteristic shallow emergent marsh sedges include Carex stricta, C. lacustris, C. lurida, C. hystericina, C. alata, C. vulpinoidea, C. comosa, C. utriculata, C. scoparia, C. gynandra, C. stipata, and C. crinita. 

Other plants characteristic of shallow emergent marshes (most frequent listed first) include blue flag iris (Iris versicolor), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), common skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata), begger-ticks (Bidens spp.), waterhorehounds (Lycopus uniflorus, L. americanus), burreeds (Sparganium americanum, S. eurycarpum), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), waterhemlock (Cicuta bulbifera), asters (Doellingeria umbellata var. umbellata, Symphyotrichum puniceum var. puniceum), marsh bellflower (Campanula aparinoides), water purslane (Ludwigia palustris), royal and cinnamon ferns (Osmunda regalis, O. cinnamomea), marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre), rushes (Juncus effusus, J. canadensis), arrowleaf (Peltandra virginica), purple-stem angelica (Angelica atropurpurea), water docks (Rumex orbiculatus, R. verticillatus), turtlehead (Chelone glabra), waterparsnip (Sium suave), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Shallow emergent marshes may have scattered shrubs including speckled alder (Alnus incana ssp. rugosa), water-willow (Decodon verticillatus), shrubby dogwoods (Cornus amomum, C. sericea), willows (Salix spp.), meadow-sweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia), and buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Areas with greater than 50% shrub cover are classified as shrub swamps. 

Characteristic mosses include Calliergonella cuspidata and Campylium spp. 

Characteristic amphibians that breed in in shallow emergent marshes include frogs such as northern spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), green frog (Rana clamitans melanota), American toad (Bufo americanus), and wood frog (Rana sylvatica) (Hunsinger 1999). Characteristic birds with varying abundance include red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris), swamp sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), Virginia rail (Rallus limicola), and common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) (Levine 1998, P. Novak pers. comm.). 

Shallow emergent marshes typically occur in lake basins and along streams often intergrading with deep emergent marshes, shrub swamps, and sedge meadows, and they may occur together in a complex mosaic in a large wetland. It appears that hydroperiod may be an important factor in determining shallow emergent marsh species composition (e.g., permanently saturated and seasonally flooded vs. saturated and temporarily inunudated). Marshes with drier hydroperiods are sometimes called “wet meadows” (P. Rutledge pers. comm.). These wet meadows are often found in agricultural or cleared land and may be dominated by sedges (Carex spp.) and soft rush (Juncus effusus). More documentation and research is needed to distinguish the different types of shallow emergent marshes in New York.