Ramapo Saltbox Environmental Research Center (ERC)

BOCES of Rockland County, Ramapo College, and Environmental Educator Chuck Stead have developed a job/skills program that incorporates the restoration, design, and construction of a 19th century Saltbox house located in Torne Valley of Hillburn, NY.  When the project is complete, the Saltbox will be the home of the Ramapo Saltbox Environmental Research Center (ERC), a field research center designed  to examine the long-range impact of paint sludge contamination, the result of Ford Motor Company's dumping during the 1960’s and 70’s. 

Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence has taken a lead role in supporting Stead’s field work examining the long-range impact of this contamination.   For the past two years, St. Lawrence and Stead have worked to bring historic preservation and environmental protection together.The first formal course to be housed at the site is planned for this Fall through the auspices of Ramapo College.

BOCES of Rockland and Ramapo College Interns at the Saltbox
Together, Ramapo College undergrad interns and BOCES high school students have designed and assembled furniture, completed the tedious process of timber restoration, and restored the structural peices of the Saltbox.

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A BOCES student works the sander Three Ramapo College Interns work on table assembly


Building a Saltbox
The re-assembly of the Ramapo Saltbox requires up-to-date modifications to meet with code regulations.  While Environmental Educator Chuck Stead has indicated that almost all of the original recovered wood from the structure will be incorporated, there are still a number of requirements that need to be met in order to allow the building a modern use.  The house which originally stood on a simple outline of field stones for two hundred years will now be atop a concrete slab with thirty six inch footing.  Sensitive to the working class traditions germane to the Ramapo region, St. Lawrence looks to acknowledge such traditions with the Saltbox ERC.  Stead plans to include archival research on both the environmental and industrial history of the region as a part of his students work at the ERC.




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Gravel is poured onto the footing along the base of the foundation


BOCES Students Lay Down the Foundation
On a bright sunny June 2nd, six BOCES students who have been working with Chuck Stead all Spring on the Saltbox project, laid down the first plank section for the sill on the poured footing.  Upon this sill the rest of the Saltbox ERC will stand.  The BOCES students hand drilled the ten foot long 2 x 10 plank and fit it over anchors set in the footing. 




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Students bolting down the sill
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Chuck Stead proudly acknowledges the Spring (2010) BOCES students as they stand upon the completed platform for the Saltbox.



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AmeriCorps Interns raise the front wall of the Saltbox

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Nature Place Day Campers hammer away at the Saltbox


Student Research on Soil Contamination
Research on soil contamination will help to establish the need for removal of this contaminant from the region.  This work will soon find a permanent home in the Saltbox Environmental Research Center that Stead and his students are building along the Torne Valley Road adjacent to one of the sites contaminated by Ford Motor Company. 


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Chuck Stead and an undergrad student from Ramapo College work in a make shift lab in the garage of Harmony Hall in Sloatsburg.  Here they weigh and identify lead percentages in pieces of paint sludge that have been removed from a terrestrial site along Torne Valley Road.


Randy Stechert's Timber Rattler Study
Randy Stechert, field biologist and consultant for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of New York State, has worked in our area studying the snake habitat and potential impacts. The rattle snake is a key species in our region and is an indicator of the health of the eco-system. Randy recently shared his work with the students of the Saltbox project giving them the opportunity to observe Randy and his assistant Ben as they planted surface transmitters on five timber rattlers. Supportive of the Ramapo Saltbox ERC as a field study classroom, Randy will be one of the visiting educators at the site to continue his public education about the rattler.


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Randy Stechert and his assistant Ben tag rattle snakes with transmitters for their habitat


Saltbox ERC Has Visitors
Representatives from Ford Motor Company, Arcadis, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation visit the Saltbox Project and speak with Chuck Stead about the research his students have been doing at the site.


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Chuck explains the nature of his students work to the visitors



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Photos by Geoff Welch

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