Thick green leaves cover the water in the Esopus Creek at its wide point across from the Saugerties village beach. Attempts to remove them over the past years have been only partially successful, with the weeds growing back into cleared areas each summer season.
The latest weapon in the battle for a clear beach area is a weed harvester, purchased jointly by the Village of Saugerties, the Town of Saugerties and John Mullen, a Saugerties-based contractor who owns land along the riverfront. The machine, delivered about two weeks ago, is currently stored in a village building on North Street.
Mullen describes the machine as “a beautiful piece of equipment.”
Village mayor William Murphy began discussions with the machine’s owner, Zdanek Ulman, also known as “Z,” shortly after Ulman’s company, Marine Diving Equipment, harvested just over three acres of weeds for the village at a cost of $5300 and removed weeds at several other properties. Ulman, who said he wanted to concentrate on his main focus, diving, began discussing a possible sale of the equipment to the village.
For a number of years, volunteers have pulled the aquatic invasive species out using rowboats and canoes, with village workers hauling them away. The weeds, water chestnuts and milfoil, appear as a carpet of green across the creek from the village beach.
The machine the village is buying pulls weeds out by the roots rather than cutting them off, reducing their ability to grow back in the next season.
Mullen’s interest in harvesting the weeds stems from property on the Esopus where he is planning to construct high-end homes. “These will be ecological and very beautiful,” he said. When Mullen is using the machine, his employees will operate it, while village employees would operate it at other times.
Village clerk Lisa Mayone said Mullen has submitted plans for his project to the planning board, but its review is in the early stages.
Saugerties town supervisor Fred Costello said the town contributed $25,000 toward the cutter. “I’m sure they will take care of the parts of the creek that are in the town,” he said.
There is no direct evidence that the weed-cutting will bring back the native plants that have been choked out by the weeds, “I’m hoping the plants and fish will return once the milfoil and chestnuts are gone,” Costello said.