Written by Edith Updike Friday, 08 August 2014 00:00
Corey Humphrey has taken over as director of the Nassau County Soil & Water Conservation District, where he’s going to deploy his special brand of “unoffensive gall,” as he puts it, to “bring partners together to get things done.” He also wants to make the agency more open to the public, with active use of social media as well as traditional modes of communication.
The Soil & Water District (NCSWCD) is a quasi-government agency that works to shore up environmental understanding among the public and encourage the use of horticultural techniques to mitigate damage, through collaborative efforts with local nonprofits such as Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as county, village, town and government agencies such as the Department of Public Works.
They also work to directly educated and aid the public, through seminars and presentations as well as individual advice, and hope to begin to make those sessions accessible via webinars and YouTube.
“We’re here, we’re available,” says Humphrey. “If you’ve got septic issues, erosion problems, flooding issues, drainage issues...call us. We’ll either help you or at least give you someone who can.” And though he says “we,” as likely as not you’ll get Humphrey himself on the phone. His support staff is as yet one part-time administrator, but he will be interviewing for a technician slot or two.
Much of current priorities are still being driven by Superstorm Sandy, and involve either green infrastructure or replanting initiatives. On the South Shore, Humphrey says NCSWCD is planning a series of soil and erosion training courses for contractors, who are still busy rebuilding homes and properties damaged by the storm. That training will make a big difference in the amount of repair work that needs to be done after the next storm, Humphrey says, and contractors are more open to incorporating those ideas.
“Thirty or 40 years ago, you were either a builder or an environmentalist,” says Humphreys. “Now, they’re seen as more in balance.”
There’s also a major effort to replace trees lost to Sandy in public parks and spaces, with a program offering the chance to “sponsor” a tree in someone’s name. Humphrey is hoping tree donations will be an appealing way for families to commemorate births, graduations or other milestone events.
Another area of focus — one clearly dear to Humphrey’s heart — is developing “rain gardens” across the county. On top of providing the pleasure of lush greens and colorful flowers, rain gardens use thirsty plants to soak up water in areas prone to flooding. Humphrey says they can be very useful in cul-de-sacs or parking lots where run-off can gather. The agency is currently working with the Town of Oyster Bay to establish a demonstration rain garden at The Farm in Oyster Bay, and with some Boy Scouts on a rain garden project in Bayville.
Humphrey, who came to NCSWCD after several years with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County, is already well familiar with the Nassau County’s “green” players. His job brings him into contact with many folks he’s gotten to know through past projects, rescuing horseshoe crabs, for example. “The people who get involved in this, 99% are altruistic,” he says. “They have a passion for conservation and preserving natural land. After all, we’re on an island and it’s not that big.”
To learn more about the NCSWCD, go to www.nassauswcd.org or ‘like’ them at www.facebook.nassauswcd (be aware, the Facebook page with the title Nassau Soil & Water Conservation District seems to be either defunct or a separate agency). For advice from Corey Humphrey or a staff expert, call 516-364-5860.