About the Friends


Friends of Marshlands Mission

Friends of Marshlands, Inc., a nonprofit volunteer organization, was formed to provide support to the Marshlands Conservancy, a wildlife sanctuary and nature preserve owned and operated by the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. We are dedicated to promoting the protection, preservation, and enhancement of the conservancy and fostering a deeper understanding of nature and our role in it.

We advocate for a management process that preserves the wildlife habitat, historic character, air and water quality, and restorative nature of the land. Membership and volunteer donations fund teaching educational programs, purchasing equipment, maintaining the Nature Center and grounds, and encouraging the support of Marshlands Conservancy by county officials.

Friends of Marshlands History

In 1966 the Zilph Palmer Devereux Estate donated a large parcel of parkland to Westchester County. The Friends of Marshlands was Founded in 1978, to help support the fledgling Marshlands Conservancy, which opened in 1972.

The friends were instrumental in advocating for the acquisition of the remaining 23 adjacent acres of the former Zilph Palmer Devereux Estate, which had been gifted to the Methodist Church in 1967. The Methodist Church eventually sold the property to a developer in 1980. During that time it was referred to as the Jay Property. In about 2015, its historic name, the Jay Estate came back into use.

In 1992, the 23 acres of the former Zilph Palmer Devereux Estate were acquired from the property developer by New York State and Westchester County. A year later, in 1993, the Boston Post Road Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark. A 2013 public–private stewardship agreement gave stewardship of the state and county owned land and buildings, including preservation, restoration, and interpretation, to the Jay Heritage Center (www.jayheritagecenter.org), which owns the Jay Mansion, carriage house, and one-and-a-half acres of surrounding land. Necessary funds are raised privately. All preservation work has to adhere to the standards of the US Department of the Interior.

Photo: Michael C. Bochnik
Yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea)


Beginning in 1979, the Friends of Marshlands spent 13 years working with local, county, state, and federal organizations to help protect the county owned conservancy and the adjacent 23 acres from the negative impacts of suburban encroachment.

We advocate for a management process that preserves the wildlife habitat, historic character, air and water quality, and restorative nature of the land.

The Symbol of the Friends of Marshlands–a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

Photo: Michael C. Bochnik
Yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

In 1978, when the Friends of Marshlands was formed, we chose the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) as our symbol and mascot. The Conservancy was the only site in mainland New York State where a pair of yellow-crowned night herons nested. The pair nested every year in the trees above the salt marsh.

They fed their hatchlings on crabs, other small crustaceans, and fish they caught in the salt marsh and at the seashore. However, the yellow-crowned night herons (Nyctanassa violacea) were unable to keep their nestlings safe from predation with the arrival of a great-horned owl (Bubo virginianus) in 1983, which nested in a pine tree, at the conservancy. Despite this, since then, yellow-crowned night herons (Nyctanassa violacea) have been seen visiting the conservancy as they migrate to places as far away as the islands of the Caribbean and Panama. We are hopeful that one day a pair may actually breed in the conservancy once again.



The work the Friends of Marshlands supported by funds raised by the friends are used in a variety of ways that support the programs, research, and facilities at Marshlands Conservancy, as shown below:

Friends of Marshlands Recent Activities

Physical Improvements

  • Covered the cost of mowing the meadow every spring
  • Covered the cost of new lock up shed to house equipment

Exhibition and Research

  • Funded design for new visitor center exhibition
  • Funded curatorial professional development

Education and Research

  • Creation of website and database
  • Funded various educational talks given for children and adults

Information Dissemination

  • Funded the Charting for and Creation of the Marshlands Trail Map
  • Contributed funding to CINAQ (The Center for the Investigation of Native and Ancient Quarries), for the photography and analyses of about 200 artifacts, surface-collected by archaeologist Dr. Stuart Fiedel between 1980 and 1994. Dr Fiedel and the director of CINAQ, Dr. Philip LaPorta, are collaborating on the analyses to complete the recording of the known human history of Marshlands Conservancy.

Marshlands Advocacy

  • Speaking for Marshlands Interests at County and other Public Meetings.
  • Advocating for assistant curator.

Current Board of Directors

President: Clare Francis
Vice-President: David Styler
Treasurer: Jean Taplett
Secretary: Gail Benson
Board Members: Tom Burke, Chris Graseck, Aaron Levine

Curator: Michael Gambino