Converging Human Health and Conservation: Kingston Land Trust’s edible stream buffer

Looking for a way to improve your community’s health and promote conservation at the same time?  You could try planting fruit trees in the floodplain.  This was the idea behind Kingston Land Trust’s edible stream buffer along the banks of the Esopus Creek. 

Stream buffers help prevent flooding by providing space for flood water to move into during a storm and by absorbing that water as well.  Buffers usually consist of native plant species and are “multifunctional” in that they provide many other benefits besides flood prevention like reducing erosion, improved habitat, and improved stream health.  However, adding fruit trees and shrubs to these plantings is a unique twist designed to increase benefits to the community. 

Who wouldn’t want to go berry picking along the waterfront? 

The Kingston Land Trust’s edible buffer is located at a formerly residential plot in the floodplain of the Esopus Creek.  The first planting took place in Fall, 2018 and includes native fruits like high-bush cranberry, elderberry, American Plum, and swamp rose.  The initial seedlings were provided by the Hudson Estuary Trees for Tribs project.  Design and management consultancy were donad by Earth Designs Cooperative in Rosendale.


Swamp Rose (G. Shaheen)

“Through projects like these, the Kingston Land Trust hopes to create tangible examples on the land of how we can restore and improve ecological systems, adapt to a changing climate, and nourish humans by producing food and medicine”

-Greg Shaheen, Kingston Land Trust

This planting will benefit community members by providing fruit picking of edible and medicinal plants along the Esopus.  However, it isn’t just an orchard; the new vegetation along 60 ft of waterfront will also improve habitat for pollinators and act as a natural barrier against flooding. 

This combination of both community and environmental benefits is not easy to achieve.  That’s why we want to celebrate projects like this that are striving to find those common benefits. 

Land trusts are well-suited to these interdisciplinary projects, and the Kingston Land Trust is a great example.  Not only is Kingston Land Trust operating as a Conservation Land Trust, but they are also working towards a Community Land Trust model to achieve benefits like inclusive land management planning, and affordable housing. 

So, the next time you find yourself on Buckley Street in the town of Ulster see if you can’t find some berries growing in the edible stream buffer.  Just make sure you don’t visit during a flood!


This article is reposted from the Department of Environmental Conservation's Newsletter 

Climate Resilience News | Hudson River Estuary | January 2020

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